Scores die in crowded Indian temple fire


A massive fire has swept through a temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala during a fireworks display, killing at least 106 people and injuring more than 350 others.

The fire broke out yesterday 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 Kollam district.

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.

Kerala’s Home Minister, Ramesh Chennithala, told Reuters news agency that 60 of the 100 dead had been identified while the number of people admitted to hospitals in Kollam and the state capital had risen to 383.

Al Jazeera 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 came as Kerala – governed by the Congress party, which is in opposition at a national level – prepares to head 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.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to Kollam with a team of doctors to help state authorities cope with the large number of injured.

“The fire at the temple in Kollam is heart-rending and shocking beyond words,” he said in a Twitter post. “My thoughts are with families of the deceased and prayers with the injured.”

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