Antony demands thorough probe, says don’t politicise Kollam fire

New Delhi : Expressing grave concern over the loss of innocent lives following the massive fire at the Puttingal temple in Kerala’s Kollam district, Congress veteran and former defence minister A.K. Antony on Sunday said that this untoward incident should not be politicised and demanded a thorough investigation into the matter so that the perpetrators are brought to book.

“I am shocked to hear this human tragedy. This is the greatest tragedy in my memory. My sympathies are with families who have been affected by this,” Antony told ANI.

“There should be no politics or any divisive things in this. The immediate thing is rescue and relief operations. All help should be provided to those who are there in the hospitals,” he added.

At least 98 people have lost their lives and more than 350 have been injured in the fire that took place in the wee hours on Sunday.

An explosion in piles of crackers during fireworks display is said to be the reason behind the fire that broke out at around 3.30 a.m. The police had earlier warned the temple authorities to restrict usage of fireworks.

Meanwhile, the Congress Party has said the Kerala Government has decided to order a judicial enquiry into the tragic incident, adding that anyone found guilty would be suitably punished.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has convened an urgent meeting of his Cabinet at 3 p.m. in Kollam.

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy has also joined the rescue operation, dispatching one Dornier, two Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs) and medical teams from Garuda Naval Air station near Kochi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs. two lakh to next of the kin of the deceased and Rs. 50,000 to those critically injured in the incident.

The Prime Minister, who will land directly here with a team of burn specialist doctors, instructed that no official welcome protocols should be followed on his arrival here.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will also be visiting Kollam this afternoon to meet the victims. (ANI)