Vinod Prasannadas has been a regular visitor to the annual fireworks display at the Puttingal Devi Temple in Paravur. Having miraculously escaped the tragedy that struck the locality, Vinod might never attend the festival again, if at all, it is conducted in the future.
Vinod, who came all the way from Vattappara, nearly 50 km from Paravar, on Saturday, was part of a group of nearly 30 people. “We stood a short distance away from the spot where the firecrackers were being launched. As the firecrackers that were stored in the storage room exploded, some of us attempted to run to safer zones. However, I was struck on the back of my head by a chunk of concrete. I might’ve had a narrow escape, but I’m worried over the safety of some of my friends whom I’ve not been able to locate as of yet,” he said.
The premises of the temple resembled a war zone soon after the explosion, with debris of the buildings and severed remains of the dead bodies scattered around the area.
Ramesh Sasidharan, a temple priest, who hails from Puchakkal in Alappuzha, was witness to the incident.
“After what has occurred, we regret having not concluded the competition back then. But amidst the excitement that had prevailed, an early end to the competitions was the last thing the spectators would have asked for. After all, the competition is regarded as the festival of the land and many inadequacies were often overlooked,” he pointed out.
There were also some among the local residents, who felt that there were glaring safety lapses on the part of the authorities. C.R. Jijy Chandran, a local resident, whose house has suffered significant damages, held the view that the police personnel who were deployed for the festival were inadequate to deal with such an exigency.
“Had it not been for the swift reaction of the residents and others, who managed to flee to safety, we would have lost many more lives in the incident. In addition, the exit path from the temple premises was constricted with several vehicles parked on both sides of the narrow road. This had restricted the smooth flow of ambulances,” he said.