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Kerala fire: After bodies, Kollam picks up the pieces

Most victims, in their 30s and 40s, were killed by head injuries as they tried to run away: Doctors

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai |
Updated: April 12, 2016 1:35:04 pm
Kollam, Kollam Temple fire, Kerala temple fire, Puttingal Devi Temple, Puttingal temple fire, Kollam fire victims Family of the victim B Gireesh. His children Rajesh, Gauri, wife Bindu and his mother Vasantha at their home on Monday. His body was buried on Sunday night. (This family is referred in the Victim Families story). Express photo by Nirmal Harindran

For Bindu, 30, the final day of the temple festival was a rare chance to go out with the family — her husband, B Gireesh, who could rarely afford time for the family, and their two children. Around 6.30 pm Saturday, the four left their single-room home and walked to Puttingal Devi temple , barely 1 km away.

“We returned home around 10 pm as the children were tired, but he decided to go back, as they (temple authorities) had confirmed that fireworks display would take place,” Bindu said. Late at night, she remembers hearing an explosion, and by morning had learnt about the accident. “He had not returned,” she said.

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Since they had no idea how to look for him, she and the children — daughter Gauri (6) and son Rajesh (10) — decided to wait, hoping Gireesh may be helping others. “When he did not return even by 10.30 am, Sunday, some neighbours went to hospitals,” Bindu said. They found Gireesh’s body in Kollam government hospital mortuary.

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Like Gireesh, most victims of the Kollam temple fire tragedy were in their 30s and 40s. And like G Sugathan (42), found dead by son Vishnu Roshan (15) at the spot where he was watching the fireworks display — near the godown where the firecrackers were kept — many had injuries in the head or back, which turned fatal.

Most victims sustained severe injuries on the back of their head, probably when hit by concrete slabs and heavy stones from the explosion as they tried to run away, doctors said. Dr Thomas Mathew, principal of Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, said severe head injuries had caused the death of most victims brought to the hospital.

Watch: Video Of Temple Fire In Kollam, Kerala (Click here)

Fourteen people who sustained more than 40 per cent burn injuries, which includes some critical patients, and 27 people with severe head injuries are still under critical care at the medical college.

“Three operation theatres are kept ready for any emergency procedures while more ventilators are being shifted there,” a health department official said. “Three hundred survivors are undergoing treatment in various hospitals in Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts. Seven patients are critical and 14 bodies are yet to be identified.”

On Monday, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced that private hospitals treating victims of the Kollam tragedy will not be allowed to charge.

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