A colourful pageant with a fantastic collection of fancy dress characters, artistes and floats, but one which began with a near-disaster, marked the culmination of the official Onam celebrations in the city on Monday.

The procession, flagged off from near the KELTRON office by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy sharp at 5 p.m., had just started moving when a float presented by the Forests and Wildlife Department suddenly caught fire, reportedly due to a short circuit. The incident, which occurred barely 100 metres away from the flag-off dais, saw flames engulfing the decked-up top portion of the lorry in less than five minutes even as four persons who were standing on the float jumped off to safety. It was the sheer presence of mind of a few policemen and a few members of the public that saved the day for hundreds of people from the crowd who were standing close to the procession as they quickly managed to bring the flames under control before the fire spread to the diesel tank of the lorry, which was full to the brim. Even as a fire engine managed to make its way through the crowd to the spot from near the dais, the flames were put out and the Fire and Rescue Services personnel just had to swathe the smoking vehicle in foam before pushing it away from the crowd. The incident held up part of the procession for nearly 30 minutes, but the merriment was back soon after, as the rest of the procession slowly floated by.

Three elephants, tiny tots on roller skates, Mohiniyattom dancers with colourful umbrellas, a ‘chenda melam’ team and several traditional dance artistes led the procession from the front, followed by several eye-catching floats.

A large number of people lined the streets on a day that saw even the rain taking a break for most of the time.