Updated: February 3, 2021 12:37:40 am
Pune City Police, who have launched a probe into the fire incident at the Serum Institute of India (SII) campus on January 21, have written to the regional Forensics Sciences Laboratory (FSL), seeking various analysis reports on priority.
Officials said reports from the Fire department, electrical experts and experts from the College of Engineering, Pune, were also awaited.
Five workers were killed in a major fire that had engulfed the upper three floors of a newly-constructed six-storey building inside one of the campuses of vaccine-maker SII, which is a central player in the global supply of vaccines for Covid-19. The five dead were workers who were doing welding and air-conditioning jobs at the building, which had recently been completed.
While the incident had taken place in the jurisdiction of Hadapsar police station in Pune city, considering the seriousness of the case, the Pune City Police Crime Branch had also started a parallel probe along with the local police station. A case of accidental death and burning incident was lodged at the Hadapsar police station as the starting point of the investigation.
Police have already concluded recording the statements of persons relevant to the investigation and have started piecing together a sequence of events. Sources close to the investigation said that senior officials from Pune City Police on Monday met officials and scientists from the regional FSL. At the time of the meeting, a letter was given to FSL officials, seeking “on priority” reports of the analysis of samples collected from the spot, as well as reports of the chemical analysis of the viscera of the five deceased, preserved following the post-mortem.
“There are over 20 samples of various objects collected from the spot which included pieces of damaged objects and traces collected from the surfaces. The chemical analysis of the viscera is required to either detect or rule out the possibility of poisonous fumes. Reports on the findings by the fire department and electrical experts are also awaited. A team from COEP has also collected samples and their results are also awaited. All these findings and our probe will be collectively analysed later to ascertain the cause,” said a police official on the condition of anonymity.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Namrata Patil confirmed that a communication has been given to officials from regional FSL seeking the reports on priority. Fire department officials have also said that some of their findings are dependent upon the analysis from FSL.
Sources from Pune City Police’s Crime Branch had earlier told The Indian Express that their teams were mainly looking into three aspects — various activities that were going on in the areas engulfed by fire, whether all precautionary and safety measures were in place and whether there was any negligence on any person’s part.
As per the sequence of events shared by various fire department officials, the first call about the fire was received at the control room around 2.33 pm on January 21. Officials said the fire could have started 15 to 20 minutes prior to that. A total of 10 fire tenders, four additional water tankers, four Devdoot (small fire tender) vans, one hydraulic lift, and one van equipped with breathing apparatus were put into service to douse the fire, officials said.
At least 10 fire officers and over 70 personnel were involved in the fire-fighting operation. Most of the area on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the building, which have huge carpet areas, was damaged in the incident.
After the fire, the Serum Institute of India had said it suffered losses worth at least Rs 1,000 crore due to the blaze, although the production and supply of the Covid-19 vaccine remained unaffected.
“The fire incident will not affect Covishield supplies, but it has damaged the rotavirus and BCG vaccine manufacturing and storage facilities. It is a big financial loss for us, more than Rs 1,000 crore,” Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla had said at a press conference, held a day after the fire.
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