Over a 100 people were killed and hundred others injured after a fire at the Puttingal temple in Kollam, Kerala. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s government was quick in its efforts to conduct rescue operations
The fire, which led to an explosion, took place at around 3.30 am in the morning and the death toll quickly rose from 20 to over a 100.
Political parties, campaigning in the state for the May 6 elections, called off their rallies. The state government ordered a judicial probe into the incident while another petition in the High Court urged a ban on fireworks.
We take a look at how it all unfolded – right from the initial fire to the rescue operations to the visit of several political leaders including the prime minister and the Congress vice president:
Sunday, April 9, 2016 – 3.30 am: A firework display at the Puttingal temple in Kollam, Kerala turns quickly into a disaster. A firework hit a room stocked with fireworks which then exploded. The room where the fireworks were stored collapsed, with concrete falling on devotees gathered at the site.
4.30 am: Devotees, who managed to escape the explosion, are helping in rescue operations. Several hundreds are stuck under debris with many more dead. A number of people were injured in a stampede that took place as people ran for cover.
6.00 am: Fire brigades, ambulances and rescue teams arrive at the site. The unofficial death toll now stands at 20 but the number is likely to rise. By about 6.30 am, victims have been rushed to nearby hospitals. Several Kerala ministers are on their way to the site. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is also rushing to the venue and has cancelled all election rallies for the day. Those in a serious condition are being transferred to the Thiruvananthapuram medical college and hospital.
7.00 am: First reports come in that the temple authorities were denied permission to hold the firework display, yet they went ahead with it. Home Minister Chennithala tells news channels that a judicial inquiry will be ordered into the fire. He also said the government will soon announce compensation for families of those dead as well as the injured. The death toll has now risen sharply to 70. An initial video is also out of what happened at the site.
8.00 am: Kerala Chief Secretary writes to the Election Commission asking for permission to release financial assistance to the victims. As polls are to be held next month, the EC has imposed a code of conduct in the state wherein the government’s expenditure is restricted.
9. 00 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweets that the #Kollam fire is heart-rendering and beyond words. He says he will visit the state later in the day to take stock of the rescue operations. He also said he spoke to CM Chandy and has offered all assistance required.
10.00 am: The death toll has now crossed 100. The Indian Navy and the Air Force are pressed into service to help ferry the injured from the temple site to better medical facilities. BJP president Amit Shah cancels all poll-related events for the day and says he’s on his way. Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweets offering Chandy all possible support. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a compensation of Rs two lakh each to the next of kin of dead, and Rs 50,000 to those injured. Chandy has convened an emergency cabinet meeting in Kollam.
11.oo am: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi tweets about the fire. “News of the devastating fire at Puttingal temple in Kollam, Kerala is extremely shocking. My prayers are with the families of those who’ve lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy.” He also announces that he will visit the site later in the day.
11. 30 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with a team of doctors from AIIMS and Safdarjung Hospital – including burn specialists – leave for Kollam. They are travelling with the PM.
WATCH VIDEO: First moments of the Kerala temple fire
12. 00 pm: BJP chief Amit Shah reaches Thiruvananthapuram and visits the injured at the medical hospital. He speaks to the media and announces compensation packages released by the PM under the PM’s Disaster Management Fund.
1.00 pm: CM Oommen Chandy has reached Kollam. He says medical facilities are adequatem adding that the government was providing best medical care to all the injured. “Meeting state cabinet today, we will discuss and then take a decision on judicial probe. The central government has already offered medical assistance, but we’re fully equipped, arrangements are good,” he tells reporters gathered at the site.
3.00 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi lands in Thiruvananthapuram and is received by Kerala Governor P Sathasivam. He will now take a helicopter to the temple site and will later visit hospitals where the injured are being treated.
4. 00 pm: Meanwhile, Chandy has announced ex-gratia relief of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of each of those killed in fire tragedy, and Rs 2 lakh for those seriously injured. A case has been registered against those who organised the fireworks display. The Prime Minister, who was on his way from Thiruvananthapuram, has landed in Kollam along with the doctors.
5.00 pm: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi lands in Kollam where he will meet families of the victims who were killed and injured in the fire. He will also visit the temple site where the fire took place.
6. 00 pm: In Kollam, the Prime Minister, along with Kerala CM Oommen Chandy are visiting hospitals where the injured are being treated. They also meet with senior state-government officials and discuss relief measures.
8.00 pm: Condolences are pouring in from across the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin has written to PM Modi while Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also offered his condolences.
10.00 pm: Congress president Sonia Gandhi has spoken to Oommen Chandy and has asked him to ensure that the guilty in the temple fire tragedy are immediately brought to book. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visiting India, offered their condolences to all those who were affected by the fire.
7.00 am, Monday: The Indian Express reports that both Additional District Magistrate A Shanavas and District Collector A Shainamol, who were instrumental in denying permission for the fireworks, were bullied and threatened by local politicians and Hindu groups, with communal motives attributed to their actions. Both Shanavas and Shainamol are Muslims. Read that story, here.
8.00 am: Five people, involved in organising the fireworks display, have been arrested early Monday morning, Kerala police officials say. A team of police officials. The Kerala Police have begun investigating the case and a crime team has taken over the probe. A judicial inquiry, headed by former judge Justice N Krishnan Nair, is heading the probe. ADGP Ananthakrishnan will head the crime branch probe.
1.00 pm: Police have secured three abandoned cars with explosives near the Kollam fire accident spot, experts are at the site to help diffuse them. The owners of the cars are identified as SS Thushara, Surendran KL & Stalin Almeida.
3.00 pm: “There seems to be a gross violation of explosives norms”, Chief Controller of Explosives, Sudarshan Kamal, in charge of monitoring use, storage and licensing of explosives, told reporters after visiting the accident site today. He was asked by MoS Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman to visit the site.
4.00 pm: A judge has written to the Kerala High Court asking for a ban on high decibel fireworks in the state. The NHRC has also issued a notice to the government of Kerala on tragedy.
8.00 am, Tuesday: Five office bearers of Puttingal Devi temple surrendered before the police this morning. They are detained by the police. by 10 am, two more officials surrender. The police officially arrest them.
4.00 pm: The Kerala High Court has banned the use of sound-making fireworks from sunset to sunrise. It has also sought a response from the Kerala government on whether a CBI probe should be ordered into the incident that left over a 100 people dead.