October 26, 2020

Fireworks spark huge temple fire in India

By Rohan Ahluwalia
Staff Writer

An explosion and wildfire caused from a botched fireworks display killed 113 people and injured over 500 at a Hindu temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala on Sunday, April 10.

The explosion occurred at the Puttingal Temple in Paravur, Kollam district, approximately 40 miles north of the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, according to BBC News. The deaths were caused from the blaze that ensued and the collapse of an office building and a storage shed at the temple.

The fireworks exploded as over 10,000 pilgrims were visiting the temple to celebrate the end of a seven-day Hindu festival for the goddess Bhadrakali. Along with the temple, around 150 houses near the temple were badly damaged by the explosions, Reuters reported.

“Our house is unlivable. Everything is blown off. If we had stayed in our house last night, we would have all died,” local resident Anitha Prakash told BBC Hindi.

According to the Chief Minister of Kerala Oommen Chandy, the explosion and subsequent fire began after sparks from the already-lit fireworks ignited another set of firecrackers in the temple.

Emergency vehicles were slow to arrive at the temple because of a power outage at the temple, BBC News reported. Bulldozers were used by rescue teams to clear the area and look for survivors.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to Kerala the next day and visited injured victims and family members. According to CNN, he said that the incident in the state was “heart-rending and shocking beyond words.”

According to the International Business Times, the Kerala government ordered a full investigation of Sunday’s incident after district official A. Shainamol stated that the temple was denied permission to use fireworks for the celebration.

Since the investigation began, seven of the 10 people who were wanted following the incident surrendered to police, International Business Times reported. According to officials, the people are board members at the temple and are currently being investigated.

Police officer Gupakumar said the seven board members were taken into custody late at night on Monday, April 11, after a two-day manhunt, the Associated Press reported. Earlier, the police had questioned five workers from the company that supplied the fireworks. The five workers were eventually released.

The Associated Press reported that, if convicted, the members stand a chance of being charged for attempted murder — a life imprisonment charge — and illegally storing explosives.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, one of the two main political parties in India, requested that district officials organize prayer sessions to pay homage to the victims and for the speedy recovery of the injured, according to CNN.

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