Massive fire in crowded India temple kills scores


10 Apr 2016

Massive fire in crowded India temple kills scores

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A massive fire has swept through a temple in India during a fireworks display, killing at least 100 people and injuring at least 200 others.

The fire broke out on Sunday morning, officials said, when a spark from the show ignited a separate pile of fireworks that was being stored at the Puttingal temple complex in the coastal town of Paravur in Kerala state.

Thousands of people were packed into the temple when an explosion was heard at about 3am local time. The blaze then spread quickly through the building, trapping people inside.

Local TV channels showed footage of huge clouds of white smoke billowing from the temple, as fireworks continued to explode in the night sky.

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Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan, reporting from Delhi, said daily celebrations were being held in the country to mark a Hindu festival.

"Some of the celebrations take place without the authorities’ permission and without taking into consideration safety measures, which is what happened [on Sunday]," she said.

The fire comes as Kerala - governed by the Congress party, which is in opposition at national level - heads to the polls in one of five state elections being held in India this month and next.

"The site has become a campaigning hotspot for many of the politicians who arrived at the scene of the fire," Gopalan said.

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India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, said on Twitter that he was on his way to the site of the fire.

I will be reaching Kerala soon to take stock of the situation arising due to the unfortunate fire tragedy in Kollam.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 10 April 2016

Fire at temple in Kollam is heart-rending & shocking beyond words. My thoughts are with families of the deceased & prayers with the injured.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 10 April 2016 Concrete hurled 

Modi annnounced 200,000 rupees (about $3,000) in compensation for the families of those killed and 50,000 rupees for those injured.

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Rescuers on Sunday morning were sifting through the wreckage looking for survivors, while diggers cleared the debris and ambulances ferried the injured to nearby hospitals.

The chief doctor at Thiruvananthapuram Medical College in the state capital said some of those pouring into the hospital had suffered serious injuries "and many would require amputation" of limbs.

"Many have sustained burns of over 50 percent and the condition of some of them is quite serious," D. Mohandas told the Hindu newspaper.

Navy spokesman D.K Sharma said the helicopters would transport the injured to Thiruvananthapuram and also to the city of Kochi where the navy operates a hospital, with some of the injured currently being treated at small local medical centres.

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Every year, the temple holds a competitive fireworks display, with different groups putting on successive light shows for thousands of devotees gathered for the last day of a seven-day festival honouring the goddess Bhadrakali, a southern Indian incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali.

Fires and stampedes are not uncommon at temples and during religious occasions, often because of poor security arrangements and lax safety standards.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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News Source: Aljazeera, 9jaTales

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