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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Indian temple blaze kills 100, more than 380 injured

Sun Apr 10, 2016 | 11:13 AM EDT Indian temple blaze kills 100, more than 380 injured 8h ago | 00:51 Modi visits injured from Indian temple blaze Indian temple blaze kills 100, more than 380 injur...X By Sivaram V PARAVOOR, Kerala (Reuters) - A fire and explosions during a fireworks display to mark the start of the local Hindu new year killed 100 people and injured more than 380 at a temple in India's southern Kerala state on Sunday. Thousands of devotees had packed into the Puttingal Devi temple, about 70 km from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram in the coastal district of Kollam, to watch the display that started at midnight and went on four hours. The blaze started when a cracker fell onto a shed where the fireworks were stored, sparking a string of powerful explosions that blew the roof of the administrative block of the temple and caused another building to collapse, residents said. "There were body parts on the floor and on the roof there was an arm," Anita Prakash, a resident said. "In the past, there's been fireworks but not on this scale." Kerala is studded with temples managed by rich and powerful trusts that often flout local regulations. Each year temples hold fireworks displays, often competing to stage the most spectacular ones, with judges who decide the winners. Kollam district magistrate A. Shainamol said people living in the area near the temple had complained about the danger of these fireworks in the past. Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to Kollam with a team of doctors to help state authorities cope with the large number of injured, moving swiftly to head off criticism of a lack of public safety. "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." Modi has faced public criticism in the past for failing to respond quickly to disasters such as the floods in Chennai late last year. Large parts of the metropolis were under water for days before government help arrived. Earlier this month, a flyover under construction in the eastern city of Kolkata for years collapsed killing 27 people, prompting allegations that shoddy material was used and that the metal parts had corroded during the years of delay. NO PERMISSION Television images from the devastated temple site showed people, some clutching children with burn injuries, being taken to hospitals. Others carried out charred bodies of victims. Kerala's Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala told Reuters 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. People stand next to debris after a fire broke out as people gathered for a fireworks display at a temple in Kollam, southern India, in this still image taken from video April 10, 2016. REUTERS/ANI via REUTERS TV People stand next to debris after a fire broke out as people gathered for a fireworks display at a temple in Kollam, southern India, in this still image... Reuters/ANI via REUTERS TV + People stand next to debris after a broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Sivaram V People stand next to debris after a broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. Reuters/Sivaram V India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) arrives at a hospital to meet the injured victims of a fire, which broke out at the Puttingal Devi temple, in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Sivaram V India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) arrives at a hospital to meet the injured victims of a fire, which broke out at the Puttingal Devi temple, in K... Reuters/Sivaram V + A relative sits next to the bed of a victim, who got injured in a fire at a temple at a hospital in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Sivaram V A relative sits next to the bed of a victim, who got injured in a fire at a temple at a hospital in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April... Reuters/Sivaram V + Policemen cordon off the area after a fire broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Sivaram V Policemen cordon off the area after a fire broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. Reuters/Sivaram V A couple stands next to a picture of a Hindu deity after a fire broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Sivaram V A couple stands next to a picture of a Hindu deity after a fire broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. Reuters/Sivaram V People gather inside the compound of a temple after a fire broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Sivaram V People gather inside the compound of a temple after a fire broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. Reuters/Sivaram V An injured man carries his child before receiving medical attention at a hospital, after a fire broke out as people gathered for a fireworks display at a temple in Kollam, southern India, in this still image taken from video April 10, 2016. REUTERS/ANI via REUTERS TV An injured man carries his child before receiving medical attention at a hospital, after a fire broke out as people gathered for a fireworks display at ... Reuters/ANI via REUTERS TV + An ambulance is seen next to people after a fire broke out as people gathered for a fireworks display at a temple in Kollam, southern India, in this still image taken from video April 10, 2016. REUTERS/ANI via REUTERS TV An ambulance is seen next to people after a fire broke out as people gathered for a fireworks display at a temple in Kollam, southern India, in this sti... Reuters/ANI via REUTERS TV + An injured person is attended to at a hospital, after a fire broke out as people gathered for a fireworks display at a temple in Kollam, southern India, in this still image taken from video April 10, 2016. REUTERS/ANI via REUTERS TV An injured person is attended to at a hospital, after a fire broke out as people gathered for a fireworks display at a temple in Kollam, southern India,... Reuters/ANI via REUTERS TV + People gather around a damaged section of a temple after a fire broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Sivaram V People gather around a damaged section of a temple after a fire broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. Reuters/Sivaram V People stand next to debris after a broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Sivaram V People stand next to debris after a broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. Reuters/Sivaram V Police rush injured into an ambulance after a fire broke out as people gathered for a fireworks display at a temple in Kollam, southern India, in this still image taken from video April 10, 2016. REUTERS/ANI via REUTERS TV/ Police rush injured into an ambulance after a fire broke out as people gathered for a fireworks display at a temple in Kollam, southern India, in this s... Reuters/ANI via REUTERS TV/ + People stand next to debris after a fire broke out as people gathered for a fireworks display at a temple in Kollam, southern India, in this still image taken from video April 10, 2016. REUTERS/ANI via REUTERS TV People stand next to debris after a fire broke out as people gathered for a fireworks display at a temple in Kollam, southern India, in this still image... Reuters/ANI via REUTERS TV + People stand next to debris after a broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Sivaram V People stand next to debris after a broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India, April 10, 2016. Reuters/Sivaram V › With Kerala in the midst of an election for a new state assembly, the fire quickly turned into a political issue as local leaders demanded an investigation. In Kerala, Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trails its Congress party and communist rivals. The BJP has focused on building up grassroots strength in the state for decades. Kerala's Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the Kollam district administration had denied the temple authorities permission for the display and the government would investigate why they went ahead anyway. "There was no permission to even store the fireworks," he said. Witnesses said they had repeatedly warned the local administration about the danger of firework displays in the crowded neighborhood. Chennithala said a case for illegal possession of explosives had been registered against the temple. The temple trust was not immediately available for comment. The explosion from the fireworks was so strong that some parts of the temple roof caved in. Local media showed bulldozers trying to clear the area of the debris. The Puttingal temple is one of the oldest in the state. It was built on the site of an ant hill where locals believe a goddess appeared centuries ago. (Additional reporting by Jose Devasia in THIRUVANANTHAPURAM and Vipin Das M. in NEW DELHI; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani and Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Ryan Woo and David Clarke)

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