In the worst-ever pyrotechnics tragedy to strike Kerala, 110 persons were killed and close to 400 injured, many of them grievously, on Sunday.
Disaster struck the crowded precincts of the Puttingal Devi Temple at Paravur, south of Kollam, around 3.30 a.m. when an entire dump of fire crackers meant to be burst to mark the conclusion of the Meena-Bharani festival exploded, killing over 40 persons instantly, maiming many more and causing extensive damage to nearby buildings.
The State government has announced a judicial inquiry and a Crime Branch investigation into the disaster.
Eyewitnesses said disaster struck when a cracker meant to explode in the air fell to the ground, sending sparks flying in all directions. The sparks reached the storehouse, igniting fireworks stored there. The explosion that followed brought down a building and caused damage to several structures in the vicinity.
The explosion was followed by power disruption, which left the crowd clueless about the magnitude of the tragedy for some time. However, the locals swung into action, extricating bodies from the debris and pulling out the injured, many of whom did not survive the journey to hospitals.
While the majority were admitted to the general hospital and private hospitals in Kollam city, 12 of the injured were rushed to the Thiruvananthapuram medical college hospital and to some private hospitals in the capital.
The Kollam district administration had denied permission for the fireworks display based on reports from the local police that the temple authorities planned to hold a competitive pyrotechnics display. However, the temple authorities went ahead with the display after giving much publicity to the event. People from neighbouring districts had converged on the temple to witness the show.
The Paravur police have registered a case against the temple authorities and the fireworks contractor, who is stated to have suffered 80 per cent burns and is undergoing treatment at the medical college hospital.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled all his programmes and rushed to Kollam with a team of medical experts from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
After a visit to the disaster spot and hospitals, accompanied by Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda and discussions with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, he announced all support for the State. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also visited the temple precincts and hospitals.
At an emergency meeting, the State Cabinet announced ex gratia of Rs. 10 lakh to the kin of the deceased and Rs. 2 lakh to the seriously injured. Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister announced that the Centre would pay ex gratia of Rs. 2 lakh to the kin of the deceased.
Here's what we know so far:
And this is how the tragedy unfolded:
7.30 p.m.: Describing the fire tragedy here as “unimaginable”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today assured Kerala government and its people all help in the hour of crisis as he visited the mishap site near here and a hospital to see the injured people. “This tragedy is very painful. The extent of the tragedy is unimaginable and such dreadful,” he told reporters before concluding his brief visit during which he also held a meeting with Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy. >Read more
6:25 p.m.: Mr. Modi to visit the injured at Thiruvananthaupuram medical college hospital in a short while from now.
6.10 p.m.: One person, who had allegedly stored crackers and fireworks ten times more than the permit, was on Sunday booked by police. >Read more
5:30 p.m.: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi reaches Varkala, is on his way to Paravur Puttingal temple.
5:16 p.m: Kollam temple fire: survivors recall tragedy
“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.” >Read more..
04:15 pm: Kerala Cabinet announces Rs. 10 lakh ex-gratia for next of kin of those killed in firework disaster; Rs. 2 lakh for the injured.
He called for the Paravur tragedy to be declared a national disaster. He also demanded a Judicial probe by a sitting judge.
04:00 pm: Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan interacts with media persons at the blast spot.
03:58 p.m.: Our Correnspondent Jyothish Nair reports: Mr.Modi, who landed at the Ashramam ground in Kollam, left for Paravur by road with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. Mr.Chandy, his Cabinet colleagues and Kollam MP, N.K.Premachandran received Mr.Modi at the Ashramam grounds. Bharatiya Janata Party leaders V.Muralidharan and PK. Krishnadas were also present.
03.45 p.m.: IMA Kerala president Dr A.V. Jayakrishnan said their Thiruvananthapuram branch President Dr R.C. Sreekumar would file a writ petition before the High Court, seeking to curb use of firecrackers. >Read more
03: 35 pm: Prime Minister Modi reaches Kollam. Mr. Modi reached Kollam by helicopter at 3.30 p.m. and left for Paravoor.
03: 25 pm: Kerala CM announces ex-gratia relief of Rs 10 lakh to kin of each of those killed in fire tragedy, Rs 2 lakh for seriously injured.
Judicial probe ordered into the Kollam temple fire tragedy, says Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy.
03: 00 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Thiruvananthapuram. He will take a helicopter to Kollam to take stock of the situation.
01: 10 pm: So far, 112 persons have been admitted at Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital. Eleven had been brought dead, while two more succumbed to their injuries while under treatment at the ICU. >Read more..
Round-up at 1 pm: The death toll in the Puttingal Devi Temple fireworks tragedy reached 106 at 12.30 p.m. Many of the injured under treatment at various hospitals are critical. Police said that cases have been registered against two persons who had taken the contract for conducting the fireworks display.
12: 45 pm: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy addresses the media at the spot of the explosion.
The distribution of solatiums to the next-of-kin of the deceased will not be affected by the model code of conduct that was in force, says Mr. Chandy. The Chief Secretary has obtained the permission of the Election Commission for the disbursal.
He added that the best-possible medical attention will be ensured for those injured.
Further decisions expected at a Cabinet meeting to be held in Kollam in a short while.
12: 40 pm: 56 persons among the dead have been identified.
12: 20 pm: Death toll touches 106.
12: 15 pm: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi speaks to Oommen Chandy; asks him to ensure proper adequate relief, medical care and assistance to the injured.
11: 50 am: PM Narendra Modi boards flight along with a team of burn specialist doctors. Now en route to Puttingal Temple.
11: 30 am: PM Narendra Modi to reach Thiruvananthapuram airport by 2 p.m. and will proceed to Kollam in a helicopter.
11: 15 am: Two Dornier aircraft and 2 ALH and 2 Chetak helicopters being despatched from Garuda Naval Air Station, Kochi, with medical teams from SNC HQ.
10: 50 am: Surendran, the firework display contractor, succumbs to injuries from the explosion, hospital sources say.
10: 30 am: Two persons who had been admitted in the surgical ICU at Medical College hospital succumbed to their injuries, taking the total death toll at the hospital to 13. So far, 100 persons have been brought to the MCH in Thiruvananthapuram.
10: 20 am: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy says his cabinet will decide to clamp down on illegal firework display.
10: 15 am: Collectors order rejecting the application of the temple to hold a fireworks display on April 9 as "it has become clear that it is not a firework display but a fireworks competition that will be held", and adding that action will be taken against those who break the order.
10: 00 am: The Prime Minister has announced ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh each to next of kin of those killed in temple firework disaster; Rs. 50,000 for the injured.
09: 55 am: Death toll rises to 102.
09: 50 am: Emergency State Cabinet meeting to convened at 3 p.m. today to discuss the incident.
09: 45 am: Earlier in the day, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said he will visit site at 11 a.m. today and decide on course of action. "I have asked Chief Secretary to approach Election Commission for permission to provide monetary relief to those affected," he tweeted.
09: 30 am: Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala visits the disaster site in Kollam, says investigation is on.
09: 25 am: Raids conducted in the house of contractor Surendran, who supplied fireworks.
09: 15 am: The Medical College Hospital at Thiruvananthapuram is struggling to handle the influx of victims. >Read more
09: 10 am: Opposition leader V.S. Achuthanandan cancels poll campaign at Malampuzha in north Kerala, rushes to Kollam.
09: 00 am: More pictures are coming in from the site as authorities work to clear the debris.
08: 45 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit Kerala to take stock of the situation.
I will be reaching Kerala soon to take stock of the situation arising due to the unfortunate fire tragedy in Kollam.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) >April 10, 2016
PM asks Health Minister J P Nadda to immediately reach the site of the fire tragedy in Kollam.— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) >April 10, 2016
08: 50 am Paravur Police register a case against organisers of the Puttingal Devi temple festival.
08: 50 am: Forensic experts begin investigation at firework disaster site at Kollam.
08: 40 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi terms firework disaster 'heart rending', says his heart is with the families of deceased and injured.
Fire at temple in Kollam is heart-rending & shocking beyond words. My thoughts are with families of the deceased & prayers with the injured.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) >April 10, 2016
08: 38 am: The Election Commission has said that there will be no curb on providing assistance to victims.
08: 35 am: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh offered support to the government of Kerala in dealing with the tragedy.
The news of major fire at Puttingal temple in Kollam is deeply distressing. Extremely pained over the loss of lives in the accident.— Rajnath Singh (@BJPRajnathSingh) >April 10, 2016
08: 30 am: Kerala government has sought helicopter support to transport the injured.
08: 27 am: Oommen Chandy speaks to Rajnath Singh; Centre offers all assistance to handle the disaster.
08: 25 am: Death toll likely to go up, official sources say.
08: 20 am:
>@TheHindu Health Minister V.S. Sivkumar at Thiruvananthapuram MCH to supervise relief work— C. Gouridasan Nair (@CGouridasan) >April 10, 2016
08: 15 am: Many more are still feared to be trapped under the building brought down by the explosion.
08: 10 am: Authorities have opened a Helpline Control room : 0474-2512344 ; 9497960778; 9497930869
08: 00 am: Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy has cancelled all his programmes for the day and is rushing to the disaster site. He is likely to order a probe.
07: 45 am: Death toll has crossed over 80.
>@TheHindu Disaster hits temple festival at Kollam in south Kerala killing 86 persons, injuring over 350— C. Gouridasan Nair (@CGouridasan) >April 10, 2016