India

Puttingal temple: Five detained over India fireworks blast

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Media captionYogita Limaye: "It took hours for firemen to battle the blaze and pull out anyone they could find alive"

Police in India have detained five people in connection with an explosion and fire at a Hindu temple in Kerala that killed more than 100 people.

The five men who work at the Puttingal temple in Paravur, are being questioned about an unauthorised fireworks display that sparked the massive explosion.

Authorities have already ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident.

Police are also looking for a number of people, who were in charge of running the temple and the festival.

Orphaned in minutes: Those left behind by the fire

Nearly 400 others were injured near the temple when a faulty rocket fell onto a large stockpile of fireworks.

A building at the temple then collapsed, causing many of the deaths.

Thousands had gathered to watch the display as part of a local new year festival.

Officials say the temple had been denied permission on safety grounds, but it had gone ahead under pressure from a large crowd.

"Five workers have been detained for questioning," Kollam police chief P Prakash told AFP news agency.

"These are not formal arrests. Once they are questioned, only then we will know their involvement and take further steps."

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited the scene and spoke with victims in local hospitals, said the incident was "heart-rending and shocking beyond words".

"The incident is so grave that it is very difficult to describe in words," he added. "People who were 200 metres away were also hurt."

In pictures: India temple fire

Image caption Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the incident was 'shocking beyond words'

The explosion happened at about 03:30 (22:00 GMT Saturday), hours after the event started in Kollam district.


'Mad scramble'

Yogita Limaye, BBC News, at the scene

Outside the Puttingal temple there was an eerie silence the night after the fire tragedy.

Rubble and firecracker shells were scattered all over the ground. And shoes. Lots of them.

A pink flip-flop, one black sandal, a white sports shoe that's upside down - they were all lying not far from each other, all signs of the mad scramble that erupted as people tried to save themselves.

Read Yogita's full report


There were scenes of chaos as emergency teams were slow in reaching the area and rescue teams used bulldozers to clear the area looking for survivors.

A power outage hit the complex after the first explosion, further complicating rescue efforts.

Image caption Many of those killed were crushed when a building collapsed
Image caption The temple had been denied permission on safety grounds to hold the fireworks display

Many of the dead were charred beyond recognition and would have to be identified by DNA tests, said Kerala police chief TP Senkumar.

The temple had been denied permission on safety grounds to hold the fireworks display but it had gone ahead under pressure from the crowd, officials said.

Police are planning to take action against the temple administration and the contractors who were putting on the display.

Kerala's government said it had ordered a judicial inquiry that would work alongside the police's criminal investigation.

The incident happened as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Mumbai for a seven-day tour of India and Bhutan, and Kensington Palace said the couple's thoughts were with those assisting victims.

Kerala is in the middle of an election for a new state assembly, but political parties have called off campaigning as a mark of respect for the victims.


Religious festivals incidents in India

Image copyright Reuters
  • January 2005: Up to 300 people die in a stampede during a Hindu pilgrimage to the remote Mandhar Devi temple in Maharashtra state
  • August 2008: At least 140 people die in a stampede at a hilltop Hindu temple in Himachal Pradesh during the Shravan Navratras festival
  • September 2008: Stampede at the Chamunda Devi Hindu temple inside Jodhpur's Mehrangarh Fort kills more than 220
  • January 2011: More than 100 die at stampede at a festival in Kerala state
  • October 2013: Stampede at a Hindu festival in Madhya Pradesh kills at least 115
  • July 2015: At least 27 pilgrims die in a stampede on the banks of a holy river in Andhra Pradesh at the start of the Maha Pushkaralu festival

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