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Serum Institute fire | Damage estimated at ₹1,000 crore, says Adar Poonawalla

Smoke billows after a fire broke out inside the complex of the Serum Institute of India, in Pune, on January 21, 2021.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

A day after a massive fire at vaccine manufacturing major Serum Institute of India (SII) Manjari facility in Pune claimed five lives, its Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla on Friday said the extent of the damage was more than ₹1000 crore. He asserted that the supply of ‘Covishield’ vaccine would remain unaffected.

Addressing a joint press conference with Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who was in the city to take stock of the situation, Mr. Poonawalla said: “The losses are mainly financial in that ₹1000 crore worth of equipment and products were damaged by the fire. This was a brand new facility, which was to be used for the future production of BCG and Rotavirus vaccines. No actual vaccine was currently being produced there, so there was no damage to supplies.” The fire had no impact on the production or storage of Oxford-AstraZeneca ‘Covishield’ vaccine owing to multiple storage facilities, he reiterated.

Mr. Thackeray visited the accident spot accompanied by his son and Minister Aaditya Thackeray, as well as Mr. Poonawalla and Dr. Cyrus S. Poonawalla, Chairman and Managing Director, SII, and top officials from the Pune district administration.

The five labourers were charred to death in the fire that broke out on the fourth and fifth floors of the building under construction in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Manjri. While the precise cause remains unclear as yet, it is speculated that an electrical fault during welding work led to the blaze, which was later aggravated by large quantities of inflammable material on the floor.

“The probe to ascertain the cause of the fire is currently underway. Until the report comes, it is not proper to comment on the matter. Only once the report comes, we will know for certain whether this was indeed an accident or something else like sabotage. The COVID-19 vaccine storage unit is safe,” Mr. Thackeray said.

Financial aid to families of deceased

The SII had taken up the responsibility of giving financial help to the families of the deceased, he noted. “Even then, should the need arise, the government will step in to provide more help in this matter,” he said.

Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla had announced that the institute would offer a compensation of ₹25 lakh to each of the families of the deceased, in addition to the mandated amount as per the norms.

The five deceased were contractual labourers, with two hailing from Uttar Pradesh, two from Pune district and one from Bihar. According to sources, five-six others were evacuated from the building when the first blaze erupted a little after 2 p.m. on Thursday.

A second, relatively a minor one, happened around 7 p.m. on the third floor of the same building. Both the fires have been brought under control.

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Printable version | Mar 1, 2021 6:53:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/sii-fire-damage-estimated-at-1000-crore-adar-poonawalla/article33636851.ece

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