SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Officials on Monday continued to sift through a Hindu temple in Southern India where at least 110 people have been reportedly killed during a fireworks display — the unauthorized pyrotechnics pummeled through the temple that was packed with thousands of people for a religious festival.
The death toll so far from the fire on Sunday at the Puttingal Devi temple complex in the village of Paravoor, stood at 110 people with nearly another 400 injured, said police officer, Unnikrishnan.
Initial blasts cut the power, sending scores of people running, other explosions followed raining the grounds with flaming debris. Several people were trapped in the chaos, one witness said.
“It was complete chaos,” said Krishna Das of Paravoor. “People were screaming in the dark. Ambulance sirens went off, and in the darkness no one knew how to find their way out of the complex.”
The fire was sparked after fireworks employed for the show ignited a separate batch of fireworks that were being stored in the temple complex, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said. Chandy is the top elected official in Kerala state. Police were also searching for 15 people of the temple board who fled after the incident. Additionally, police are investigating possible charges of culpable homicide, punishable with life imprisonment, and illegally storing a cache of explosives.
The majority of the 110 deaths occurred when the building where the fireworks were being stored collapsed, Chandy said. More than 80 of the bodies have been identified, and TimesNow, an Indian television station, has reported the death toll at 112. Villagers in the area said they saw police pulling bodies out from under slabs of concrete and twisted steel in the wreckage.
One of the explosions sent huge chunks of concrete flying as far as a kilometer (half a mile), said Jayashree Harikrishnan, another resident.
The temple holds a competitive fireworks show every year, with several different groups putting on displays for the thousands of gathered guests. The fireworks display coincides with the end of the seven-day festival honoring the goddess Bhadrakali, a southern Indian incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali.
This year, however, authorities denied temple officials permission to hold the fireworks display, said A. Shainamol, the district’s top official.
“They were clearly told that no permission would be given for any kind of fireworks,” Shainamol told reporters.
The permission was denied after fears the groups going to extremes to outcompete each other would be dangerous for the large crowd in attendance. The temple gets overcrowded during the festival, Shainamol said.
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.