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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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Indian American couple dead in apparent murder-suicide

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Indian American Couple Dead In Apparent Murder-suicide | Diya TV News

 North Arlington, NEW JERSEY (Diya TV) — Authorities in New Jersey are investigating a possible murder-suicide, saying Balaji Rudrawar stabbed his wife Aarti to death. Both were found dead in their home with multiple stab wounds. Their young daughter was found unharmed inside. The motive remains unclear. The man’s father told an India-based media outlet his daughter in law was 7 months pregnant.

In Indian waters, a US war ship sailed through India’s Exclusive Economic Zone without asking for permission, a violation of that country’s law. Both countries remain partners in the region. Sources with the Indian Navy say the move was more about sending a message to China.

As Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry wraps up his India trip,  he’s taking to social media and personally thanking some of the leaders of that region including Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and now Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen of Bangladesh, saying all the countries involved are committed to address global warming and climate change. Kerry is raising awareness about this issue heading into a climate conference with world leaders later this month. 

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Muslim advocates sue Facebook over not removing anti-Muslim hate speech

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Muslim Advocates Sue Facebook | Diya TV News

MENLO PARK, Calif. (Diya TV) — Frustrated with what it sees as a lack of progress, a group called Muslim advocates, along with law firm Gupta Wessler, is suing Facebook, claiming the social media giant does not consistently remove all hate speech, especially language that targets followers of Islam.  The group is calling out top executives like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, demanding the social network start taking anti-Muslim activity more seriously. A Facebook spokesperson says it regularly uses artificial intelligence to remove posts that violate its policies.

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And a big blow to Indian filmmakers.  The Federal government is cutting the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, which allowed filmmakers to appeal decisions made by the censors, which has the power and authority to ban certain movies for inappropriate content.  Instead, they will now have to go to lawyer up and go straight to court and fight if they disagree.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Hate crime charges demanded against Oxford professor

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Hate Crime Demanded Against Oxford Professor | Diya TV News

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — More than 100 Hindu and Indian organizations are calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to crack down on hate speech at the University of Oxford. Professor Abhijit Sarkar is accused of targeting a female Indian student because of her Hindu beliefs and forcing her to leave the school. The coalition is demanding Sarkar’s firing and also wants him to be charged with a hate crime.

In Seattle Washington, tenants facing eviction will now have free access to lawyers if they cannot afford to pay for services on their own.  Controversial Indian American City council member Kshama Sawant is behind this new legislation.  She says without this law, tenants would face a tsunami of evictions once the rent moratorium expires.

And Amazon delivery drivers in India are going on a 24 hour nationwide strike. after the company slashed how much they can earn per package. Organizers say demonstrations will take place in a number of cities across the country, including Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Delhi, making it the first nationwide protest against the e-commerce giant in India.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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