Eyewitnesses said when the pyrotechnic display started, it was clear that it was a competitive event. Except announcement over the microphone, it had all the other ingredients of a typical competitive pyrotechnic display. Two competitors, Anarkhali of Kadakavur and Umesh Kumar of Kazhakuttam, were the contractors for the event.
The materials for the display were stored in the Thekke kambapura (southern fireworks storehouse) on the left side of the temple. Trouble began when preparations were being made for starting the suryakanti pyrotechnics. It involves seven-stage fireworks in the air, which finally explodes to take the shape of a sunflower ( suryakanti ).
When the first one was brought out from the kambapura and lit, it exploded on the ground itself, injuring two operators. The second one also failed and injured another two. The four of them were soon rushed to a nearby hospital in an ambulance. The fourth suryakanti exploded at the first stage, but failed to go up further. It then descended and exploded midway. The sparks hit the fireworks material being taken out of the kamabura and they began exploding with relay effect. The sparks from the fireworks went straight into the concrete kambapura and the whole building exploded within a matter of seconds.
The whole area then plunged into darkness as electricity feeder lines got snapped. Screams of people filled the air, and the whole festive area soon turned eerie. The Devaswom Board building near the kambapura was completely destroyed.
At least sixty houses in the area suffered major or minor damages. Huge concrete blocks of the kambapura got thrown off more than a kilometre away, and one even fatally hit a young man who was relaxing on his parked motorcycle at the Paravur junction. Most of those killed were men and natives of Paravur or nearby areas. Fire force, police and local people quickly engaged in rescue operations, and as per reports, 40 persons died on the spot.
The temple committee president and secretary and the pyrotechnics contractors are absconding.