A fireworks display early Sunday morning in a temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala ended in tragedy. The Puttingal temple had been forbidden from setting off fireworks during the celebration to mark the end of a week-long festival honoring the goddess Bhadrakali. They ignored the warnings and put on the display anyway. The result was disastrous.
The evidence shows that one stray firework landed in the place where the other fireworks were being stored. The resulting explosions were so tremendous that they leveled several buildings in the area. Chunks of concrete went flying. The fire quickly spread. Witnesses said that many people were buried in rubble as the area where the fireworks had been stored collapsed.
“What initially looked like a beautiful set of fireworks suddenly transformed into a huge ball of fire, smashing more than 10 holes in the temple complex, which was chock-a-block with people,” said freelance reporter Shantanu Ray from New Delhi.
As a routine precaution, six ambulances had been positioned around the temple. They were able to transport the injured to hospitals in the nearby cities of Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram. Firefighters were able to get the blaze under control before the afternoon. Physicians said, based on the injuries seen, it is likely once the explosions started a stampede to get out of the temple occurred which in of itself caused injury and death.
The latest count put the death toll at 102. More than 200 were injured. Kerala’s high court had mandated that fireworks must be stored at least 100 meters from any temple. This command was evidently ignored. Police have charged temple officials with culpable homicide.
“We will be investigating how the orders were flouted and who was responsible for the decision to go ahead with the firework display,” said Chief Minister Chandy.