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More than 100 dead in fireworks explosion

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A view of a collapsed building after a massive fire broke out during a fireworks display at the Puttingal temple complex in Paravoor village, north of Thiruvananthapuram, India, on April 10, 2016.

A view of a collapsed building after a massive fire broke out during a fireworks display at the Puttingal temple complex in Paravoor village, north of Thiruvananthapuram, India, on April 10, 2016.

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.

Indian officials gather beside a collapsed building as they try to rescue survivors after an explosion and fire at The Puttingal Devi Temple in Paravur early April 10, 2016.

Indian officials gather beside a collapsed building as they try to rescue survivors after an explosion and fire at The Puttingal Devi Temple in Paravur early April 10, 2016.

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.

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Impact commits $10M to supporting Indian American candidates

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Impact

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Indian American IMPACT, a political organization working to put Indian Americans in public office, announced a new $10 million commitment to support Indian American candidates nationwide. They also announced public interest lawyer Neil Makhija will be IMPACT’s new Executive Director. The number of Indian Americans in Congress has grown five-fold in just the past eight years.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged YouPlus, a Silicon Valley startup, and its CEO Shaukat Shamim with defrauding investors by making false and misleading statements about the company’s finances. The complaint states Shamim told investors YouPlus earned millions of dollars in annual revenue and had more than 100 customers, including Fortune 500 companies. But the scheme dissolved when Shamim is said to have told certain investors YouPlus had earned less than $500,000 and obtained only four paying customers since the company’s 2013 inception.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Feds arrest entrepreneur Mukund Mohan for PPP fraud

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Mukund Mohan

SEATTLE (Diya TV) — U.S. attorneys arrested serial Indian American entrepreneur Mukund Mohan on charges of allegedly defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program with fake and altered documents and embezzling more than $5.5 million in COVID-19 relief funds through six shell companies. Mukund Mohan was a former Microsoft and Amazon executive and is currently the CTO of BuildDirect.

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Apple manufacturer Foxconn has started building iPhone 11 units in a facility near Chennai in India. It’s the first time Apple has made one of its top-tier phones in India. India is the second-biggest smartphone market in the world, second only to China.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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India & China slowly move towards disengagement

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India

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — India and China held virtual talks and agreed on a complete disengagement of troops along the line of control. But there remains sticking points in multiple areas along the border. India insists bilateral relations will not improve until “full peace and tranquility” are restored.

Police in Schenectady, New York are facing major scrutiny after footage was released of one of their officers applying a neck hold to 31 year old Yugeshwar Gaindarpersaud. He was treated and released, but he continues to face two charges of running away and resisting arrest. He’s accused of slashing his neighbors tire, causing $200 of damage. His attorneys are fighting to get prosecutors to drop the charges.

The UK Parliamentary Group, which visited Pakistan Administered Kashmir, and heavily criticized the Indian government for their recent constitutional change applying to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, acknowledged they received nearly $18,000 from the Pakistan Government to make the trip.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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