The death of at least 102 people as a result of a major fire that took place at Puttingal temple at Paravur in Kollam district of Kerala has sent shock waves throughout the country. The accident, that took place early on Sunday, is reported to have been caused as a result of a stray cracker popularly known as ‘amittu’ accidentally falling into a fireworks stockpile towards the fag end of the fireworks display. Splinters of the blast in the stockpile subsequently resulted in a huge fire in the hutment storing more fireworks, local media reported. The fireworks display is part of an age-old tradition at the temple.
Accidents caused as a result of fireworks have been a consistent occurrence and is nothing new to Kerala. Negligence of rules formed by authorities regarding making and use of firecrackers has been a major cause of concern in the state where fireworks are traditionally part of a large number of local festivals.
Here are a list of five accidents from the past decade caused as a result of fireworks in Kerala.
1. Maradu Kottaram Bhagavathy Temple (January, 2016)
In January 2016, a firecracker manufacturing unit in Maradu in Kochi caught fire leaving a woman dead. The fire caused widespread damage to houses in the surrounding areas. The blast took place at a warehouse attached to the Kottaram Bhagavathi Temple. The temple is famous for its fireworks display, which is deemed to be the largest in scale in the district. The display of fireworks takes place in mid-February each year, and the blast is reported to have taken place while crackers for the festival were being prepared.
2. Fire-cracker unit at Panniyamkurissy (March, 2013)
A huge fire broke out at a makeshift tent of a fire-cracker manufacturing unit in Panniyankurissy, near Cherpalassery, leaving behind a death toll of seven. While the real cause behind the explosion remains unknown, a large amount of explosives were seized by the police from the site.
3. Fire-cracker unit at Athani, near Thissur ( December, 2011)
An explosion at a fire-cracker making unit in Athani claimed the lives of six people. Investigations into the incident revealed that the unit was manufacturing explosives at quantities far above the permissible levels of 15 kg. Further, potassium chlorate, a banned substance, was being used for the manufacturing of crackers. The annual Pooram festival at Thissur is arguably the largest and most popular fireworks display in the state. The extensive use of fireworks for the festival and the accidents caused by the same have led to a number of allegations against the organisers over the years.
4. Fire cracker unit near Shoranpur (February, 2011)
A fireworks unit near Shoranpur went up in flames in 2011, claiming the lives of thirteen people. Reports said that the licence for the unit had expired in 2008.
5. Fireworks production unit at Thissur ( May, 2006)
A unit engaged in the production of fireworks for the Thissur Pooram festival witnessed an explosion in May 2006. The blast left four dead and several injured. The unit was producing firecrackers for the Paramekkavu Temple which is one of the two temples reputed to carry out the largest celebrations of Thissur Pooram in the city. Following the incident, demands had come in from various quarters to reduce the scale of the festival.
Here is a list of older accidents associated with fireworks in Kerala
1989, Kandashamkadavu church festival: Tragedy struck the church festival leaving 12 dead.
1988, Thrippunithura, Ernakulam district: Ten people died when a shed housing crackers caught fire.
1984, Kandashamkadavu church festival: The festival held in Thissur district saw the death of 20 people following a cracker blast.
1952, Sabrimala temple: A death toll of sixty-eight when a firecracker blast took place at Sabrimala early in the morning.