Kollam: In one of the worst tragedies to hit Kerala, 100 people were killed and 383 injured in a major fire that engulfed the 100-year-old Puttingal Devi Temple complex during a display of fireworks, for which no permission had been granted by the authorities.
A judicial probe by a retired High Court Judge was ordered by the state government along with an investigation by Crime Branch into the tragedy, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced after an emergency Cabinet meeting over the tragedy.
Chandy, who had earlier put the death toll at 102, told reporters after the meeting that as per the latest figures, 100 people have died and 383 persons were injured. The injured have been admitted to various hospitals, he said.
At least 60 bodies have been identified. Post-mortem will be held as early as possible and bodies handed over to the relatives without any delay, he said.
Scientific examination would be done to identify bodies which have not yet been claimed, he said.
Chandy also announced ex-gratia relief of Rs 10 lakh to kin of each of those killed in fire tragedy, Rs 2 lakh for seriously injured and Rs 50,000 for those with minor injuries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who termed the incident as “heart-rending” and “shocking”, announced Rs 2 lakh each as compensation for the next of the kin of the dead and Rs 50,000 each for the injured. He later rushed here to personally take stock of the situation and see the injured people.
The tragedy struck around 3.30 AM during display of fireworks at the temple complex, which is around 70 kms from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
The display, for which no permission had been granted by Revenue and police officials, had started at midnight as part of an annual festival and thousands of people had gathered to witness it.
The mishap occurred as sparks of the fireworks fell on the store room ‘Kambapura’ and the fire crackers kept there exploded with a deafening noise, police said.
The sound of the explosion could be heard over a radius of one kilometre and the whole area plunged into darkness as the power supply went off and people ran helter-skelter, eyewitnesses said.
Charred bodies and human remains were strewn around the temple complex after the fire tragedy.
The Chief Minister said the District Collector of Kollam had not given permission to conduct the fireworks.
District Collector A Shainamol said “no permission for any kind of fireworks” was given.
She said the temple authorities had asked for permission to conduct competitive fireworks which was denied. For normal fireworks, no permission was sought and hence there was no question of granting it, the DC said.
Police sources said a case has been registered against temple authorities and explosive licencees under section 307 (Attempt to murder), and 308 (Attempt to commit culpable homicide) of IPC and under section 4 of Explosives Substances Act.