Kollam (Kerala): At least 86 people were killed in an accident on Sunday due to a firework display which caused a massive blaze at the Puttingal temple in the coastal town of Paravur located about 60 kms from the state capital.
The gruesome incident occurred around 3.30 a.m.
Speaking to IANS, Lallu S.Pillai who was covering the temple festival for Asianet News TV, said it only took a few minutes for the disaster to take place.
"I was watching the event unfold about 150 metres from the terrace of my friend's home. The firework display was only around half an hour to finish when a spark of an already lit cracker landed in the concrete building that stored the high potency crackers. In few minutes, the building came crashing down and we felt the place shaking," said Pillai.
"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," Pillai added.
Numerous homes in half a kilometre radius have been damaged .
Eyewitness said that the fireworks display started close to midnight and when nearing its close, a spark from a cracker landed in a building that had stored some high potency crackers and it caught fire causing a massive explosion.
According to local legislator P.K. Gurudasan, there was no firework competition but only a firework display, generally associated with any temple festival. However, it is not clear if there was any permission for this display.
State Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar said the injured have been brought to the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College hospital.
"Numerous people are under treatment in hospitals at Kollam. The health department is fully geared to provide the necessary treatment," said Sivakumar.
Meanwhile, Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala announced financial assistance to the dead and the injured. He said judicial probe would be ordered soon.
The fire has been brought under control and heavy equipment machineries are now working to clear the debris.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy will be reaching the accident site shortly and has already asked the chief secretary to get in touch with the Election Commission to allow the state government to announce immediate relief to the victims.
Kollam Lok Sabha member N.K.Premachandran who visited the site demanded that all those who have been injured should be given free treatment with adequate compensation.