Puttingal temple fire: Rescue ops on, PM en-route Kollam

Kollam (Kerala) : Rescue and relief operations are in full swing after 98 people were killed and more than 350 others injured in a massive fire that broke out in Puttingal temple in the wee hours on Sunday.

Personnel of the Air Force, Navy and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) joined the Kerala Police, disaster management teams and fire brigade on the scene for rescue and relief work.

Four Air Force choppers, including Mi-17 and Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), joined the rescue operation from Sulur in Coimbatore.

The Indian Navy joined the rescue operation, dispatching one Dornier, two ALHs and medical teams from Garuda Naval Air station near Kochi. One additional Dornier and two Chetaks have also been pressed in by the Navy.

INS Kabra and INS Kalpeni with medical stores on board are being sent to Kollam shortly, while INS Sunayna has already been sent.

The India Coast Guard ICG dispatched one ship loaded with medical team, while another team on its way to Kollam via road and one chopper was positioned at Trivandrum.

NDRF Director General O.P. Singh said four teams of NDRF are on standby in Chennai. He added that Home Minister Rajnath Singh directed him to extend all possible help to the Kerala Government in the rescue operation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to take stock of the situation.

“Spoke to CM Oommen Chandy about the fire at a temple in Kollam. Arranging for immediate shifting of those critically injured via helicopter,” he said in a tweet.

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.

Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala visited the scene to take stock of rescue and relief operations.

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

Meanwhile, a cache of unexploded explosives was found on the premises of Puttingal temple, and a case has been registered against Puttingal temple authorities.

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. (ANI)