At least 83 people have been killed and 350 injured after a fire broke out at the Puttingal temple in Paravur in Kerala's Kollam district early this morning, officials said today.
The fire started around 3 am at a ground next to the temple where 10,000 to 15,000 people were present for a festival and to watch the fireworks all night.
"A spark from the crackers being burst fell into the stack of crackers kept in a makeshift compartment at the ground, triggering the fire. The space was an open group and people could run away," a police official said. Officials are investigating if "competitive fireworks" led to the fire.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his anguish on Twitter and said he will be reaching Kerala soon to take stock of the situation.
Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy who is also on his way to the spot, said the fire was "unprecedented" and "alarming". Air Force Helicopters were being used to ferry the seriously injured to hospitals, he told NDTV.
The injured have been taken to 10 hospitals and according to Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, "all necessary arrangements have been made in Ernakulam and Trivandrum."
The fire, which also damaged the Puttingal temple's roof, broke out during celebrations for the New Year festival of Vishu in the coastal town around 60 km from Thiruvananthapuram.
Senior police and district officials reached the spot early morning.
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