Indian temple fire kills at least 102, probe ordered

At least 102 people were killed Sunday in a fire at a temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala, sparked by a fireworks' display that flouted safety regulations, officials said.

The death toll was rising as many of the more than 300 injured victims are in serious condition.

The fire at the Puttingal temple in Kollam district was likely sparked by fireworks from a display celebrating a local festival, Kollam district commissioner A Shainamol said.

A spark landed on a stockpile of fireworks and set them ablaze, leading to several explosions in the crowded grounds of the temple around 3:30 am (2215 GMT), Times Now television channel reported.

The building where the fireworks were stored came crashing down, injuring the crowds milling around it, a witness was quoted as saying by IANS news agency.

"Then it was absolute chaos and pieces of concrete were scattered all over the place and some of it were found over 500 metres away in a taxi stand," said local television reporter Lallu Pillai.

The local government had denied permission for the fireworks display, citing safety concerns, Shainamol said.

Many victims were hurt in the stampede that followed the fire. Reports estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people were gathered in the temple grounds at the time and it had narrow exits.

Around 50 of the victims had been identified so far and most of them were men, an official at the Kollam police control room said.

Kerala's chief minister who had rushed to Kollam said a judicial investigation would be ordered into the incident.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also flying to Kollam. The federal government was sending helicopters and medical teams from the Navy and Air Force to assist with treating the injured.

The district hospital in Kollam and the main state-run hospital in state capital Thiruvananthapuram were overflowing with injured and their relatives.

Most of the injured had suffered burn wounds, or been hurt from flying cement and mortar or in the stampede.

Police filed charges against the temple authorities and the operators of the fireworks' displays.

Manorama News channel showed the fireworks followed by a blazing fire and explosions. Later video showed cranes and rescue workers trying to remove rubble to search for victims.

The fire was brought under control in about four hours, police said.

Last update: Sun, 10/04/2016 - 13:18

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