Five people detained after India temple fire | News | DW | 11.04.2016
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Five people detained after India temple fire

The arrests were made after 108 people died in a blaze at a packed temple in southern Kerala state. The tragedy happened when a fireworks display set off explosions and a huge fire.

A police spokesman said the five people taken into custody were employees of one of two companies who were given the contract for running an unauthorized fireworks display at the temple to celebrate Hindu New Year.

They were later released, but police didn't say whether they were able to help authorities track down the 15 temple board members who had fled after the accident.

Sunday's blaze at the 100-year-old Puttingal Devi temple complex in Paravoor, Kerala, left 108 people dead and as many as 400 others injured.

Temple carnage

Local media reported that thefire broke out at around 3.30am local time when sparks from a pyrotechnic display fell into a store room containing firecrackers.

They exploded, engulfing the grounds of the Hindu place of worship, where thousands of people had gathered. Hundreds of devotees were left trapped.

Most of the deaths occurred when the building where the fireworks were stored collapsed, a local official said.

One villager, Krishna Das, described the scene as "complete chaos." "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."

Grieving familes angry

On Monday, one grieving relative described seeing "so many men and women lying on the ground, lifeless," as people scoured the temple grounds for the possessions of their loved ones.

Scores of worried relatives also crowded the Kollam District Hospital, searching for family and friends. One man, who goes by the name Somraj, said he was still looking for his son-in-law, Anu.

"We were about to return home, when Anu said, 'Let's watch for a few more minutes,'" he recalled. "Then came this loud explosion, and everything went dark. I've been searching for him everywhere."

India temple fire, fireworks

A social media campaign is growing to #BanFireCrackers following the tragedy

Investigation opened

The Kerala government has ordered a investigation into the tragedy, while criminal cases have been registered against the temple's directors and the company who provided the fireworks. They're likely to face charges of attempting to commit culpable homicide, local media reported.

Meanwhile, the state's chief minister has offered immediate compensation to the relatives of those killed and injured, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to Kerala to see the damage for himself.

Each year across Kerala, hundreds of temples hold fireworks displays to mark Hindu New Year, often competing to stage the most spectacular ones, with judges who decide the winners.

The scale of the tragedy has ignited demands that fireworks shows be banned in crowded places.

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