Update: 12. 30 p.m. IST -- Defence agencies came to the aid Monday of the victims of the temple fire in Kerala's Kollam district. Four Air Force helicopters reached Trivandrum Monday while two AN32 aircrafts were expected to take two NDRF teams from Arakkonam, Tamil Nadu. Two business Boeings of the Air Force with medical teams have left from Delhi for Thiruvananthapuram.
The Indian Coast Guard also chipped in by sending a ship with a medical team aboard to Kollam, while another team would travel via road.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi are on the way to Kollam where at least 102 people died due to a fire in a temple during Vishu celebrations in Kerala.
Update: 10. 38 a.m. IST -- The toll escalated to 102 in the tragic fire at a temple in Kollam in Kerala, the Director General of Police confirmed to the Indian Express. Multiple cases have been lodged against the temple board and those who arranged for the fireworks.
Update: 10 a.m. IST -- Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Rs. 2 lakh ex-gratia compensation to the family of the deceased and Rs. 50,000 for the seriously injured in the Kollam temple fire accident. He has expressed deep shock and grief over the 83 dead and 350 injured in the fire. He is also set to arrive in Kerala Monday.
Original Story -- A fire at a temple during Vishu celebrations in Kerala's Kollam district in the early hours of Sunday killed at least 83 people and injured hundreds. The fire reportedly broke out due to a pile of firecrackers, stored inside the temple, getting lit by accident. Rescue operations by the Air Force and disaster management teams are underway at the spot.
The Puttingal temple in Kollam district's Paravoor descended into chaos around 3:30 a.m. Sunday when a massive fire at the temple led to an explosion. Debris from the building hit devotees gathered there while windows of nearby houses were also shattered. Four helicopters including Mi-17 and ALH from Sulur are being used by the Air Force to lift the injured from the spot. Kerala DGP Senkumar confirmed the number of deceased to the News Minute. The deceased includes a policeman.
"A firecracker or amittu fell into the crowd and then a man's hand caught fire. Soon the fire spread. For the first fifteen minutes, we were almost clueless. The concrete building in which firecrackers were kept also caught fire and in the explosion the concrete and even the beams fell down. This injured more people, [sic]" TNM quoted a Manorama News reporter as saying.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said he will go to Kerala to assess the situation. He has also directed members of the Union Cabinet, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh, to reach the site of the tragedy. Meanwhile, four National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams are on standby in Chennai, NDRF director general OP Singh told ANI.
Kollam's district collector was holding a meeting with police officers after which decision regarding post-mortem of those who died in the tragedy and "other things" will be taken, Kerala Health Minister VS Siva Kumar told ANI.
"We're giving all possible support to the injured," he said.
At least 80 injured people were taken to Trivandrum medical college for treatment, Kumar added.
Some bodies have been burnt beyond recognition, TNM reported.
While a fireworks show is an important part of Vishu celebrations, authorities had barred the temple from conducting it.
Kerala, which is poll-bound and has the Model Code of Conduct in place, needs to seek the Election Comission's (EC) permission for release of funds to address the situation. Kerala's chief secretary has already written to the EC about it.
A judicial inquiry will be ordered into the accident, Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.