Puttingal fireworks tragedy | Seven years on, no lessons learnt; Kerala yet to switch over to remote electrical firework display

April 09, 2023 08:42 pm | Updated April 10, 2023 12:29 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPPURAM

The Puttingal Devi temple precincts razed to the ground in the impact of the explosion.

The Puttingal Devi temple precincts razed to the ground in the impact of the explosion. | Photo Credit: C_SURESH KUMAR

Monday marks the seventh anniversary of the Puttingal fireworks tragedy near Kollam that claimed 109 lives and injured over 280 people. Yet, Kerala appears to have not learnt any major lessons from the incident.

R. Venugopal, the then Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives, Hyderabad, who submitted the accident investigation report, had suggested that the present manual firework display be phased out with remote electrical display.

But, despite repeated accidents, the State is still dragging its feet on many fronts. V.K. Venkitachalam, secretary of the Heritage Animal Task Force, says as many as nine people have been killed in firework-related accidents in Kerala till date in 2023. The fact is that despite the recommendation and repeated accidents, the State has not initiated any step to sensitise organisers to switch over to electrical firework display by remote operations, a choice of many advanced countries.

According to an officer with the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), formerly Department of Explosives which was the licensing authority for fireworks display in the past, there are several advantages if the State switches over to the remote-controlled ignition system to set off fireworks displays.

Also read | Kollam temple fire: Sight of the dead will haunt me for life, says survivor

Internationally, these systems are becoming increasingly common. It allows organisers to set off fireworks from much longer and safer distances and removes much of the physical risk associated with the setting off a rapid chain firing of fireworks.

Also, it is not much expensive now. All fireworks have a safety fuse which one has to light in order to start the firework. When lighting by hand, one has to put a flame against the fuse to ignite it. With a remote firing system, an electrically operated igniter attached to the fuse is detonated obviating the need of human interface, says the officer.

After the Puttingal fireworks tragedy, authorities tried to enforce PESO guidelines more strictly resulting in district administrations withdrawing permissions granted for fireworks . However, more is needed to avoid fatalities related to firework accidents, says a senior revenue officer.

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