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106 ad in Kollam Fire, But Temple Board Still Wants Fireworks

Very early on Sunday morning, 10,000 people were present at the Puttingal Devi temple, about 70 km from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, to watch a fireworks display at a major annual festival that coincides with the start of the Hindu new year.   The display began at midnight and continued for four hours. Then suddenly, a cracker fell onto a shed where the fireworks were stored, sparking a string of powerful explosions that blew the roof of the administrative block of the temple and caused another building to collapse.Nearly 400 people are injured. “There were body parts on the floor and on the roof there was an arm,” Anita Prakash, a resident said. “In the past, there’s been fireworks but not on this scale.”  Kerala is studded with temples managed by rich and powerful trusts that often violate regulations.  Today, the Travancore Devaswom Board, in charge of nearly 1,000 temples, said it will not obey a ban on fireworks, and that it is up to the government to ensure public safety. Fireworks had been banned by local officials in Kollam, but the temple went ahead with a competition to stage the most spectacular ones, with judges selected to decide the winners. Kerala is in the middle of its election – it votes on May 16 and campaigning is on.Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the Kollam district administration had denied the temple authorities permission for the display and the government would investigate why they went ahead anyway. “There was no permission to even store the fireworks,” he said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to Kollam yesterday with a team of doctors to help state authorities cope with the large number of injured. Kollam district magistrate A Shainamol was among those who had reportedly told the temple that the fireworks were not permitted. A case against the temple has been filed for illegal possession of explosives. The state’s Crime Branch is handling the investigation to determine who is accountable for the tragedy. The explosion from the fireworks was so strong that some parts of the temple roof caved in. The Puttingal temple  was built on the site of an ant hill where locals believe a goddess appeared centuries ago.

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