NEW DELHI —
Police in southern India detained five people for questioning in connection with the temple fire in the state of Kerala that killed about 100 people and injured 380 early Sunday.
The massive fire erupted as thousands gathered to witness a fireworks display held as a part of an annual religious festival.
Officials said a shed where a huge quantity of fireworks was stored went up in flames after a spark fell on it, setting off a series of massive explosions and a blaze that spread quickly. The office of the temple authorities was reduced to rubble and part of the temple roof caved in.
A stampede ensued as panic spread and many were injured as they tried to flee the flames.
The tragedy took place a few hours after the fireworks display started near the Puttingal Devi Temple in the coastal town of Paravur in Kollam district, about 70 kilometers from the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram.
Military assisting aid effort
Disaster teams have reached the coastal town. The armed forces are assisting the massive effort to transport the injured and those who have suffered burn injuries to hospitals.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said permission had not been granted for the fireworks display and temple authorities had flouted rules in conducting it.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi headed to the disaster site with a team of specialist doctors. In a tweet he called the fire at the temple “heart-rending and shocking beyond words” and said, “My thoughts are with families of the deceased and prayers with the injured."
The fireworks display at the temple is a tradition that dates back many decades and is usually a competition between two teams.
Pyrotechnic shows are usually banned at temples in the Kollam district and rules stipulate that fireworks should be stored more than 100 meters away from temples.
The southern Kerala state is dotted with many Hindu temples, and the Puttingal Devi temple was built at a site where locals believe a goddess appeared many centuries ago.