India temple workers questioned over blast which killed 110

Policemen on duty at Puttingal Temple in Paravoor village, Kerula, where a fire killed 110 people at a religious festival. Picture: AP

Policemen on duty at Puttingal Temple in Paravoor village, Kerula, where a fire killed 110 people at a religious festival. Picture: AP

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Police in India questioned five people in connection with an explosion and fire at a Hindu temple in Kerala that killed at least 110 people.

The five men who work at the Puttingal temple in Paravoor were asked about an unauthorised fireworks display that sparked the massive explosion. They were later released yesterday afternoon.

Then came this loud explosion, and everything went dark. I’ve been searching for him everywhere

ANU LAL

Authorities have already ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident.

Meanwhile medical teams continued to 380 other people injured in the fire.

Amid the burned wreckage of the Puttingal Devi temple complex rescue officials sifted through huge piles of dust, wood and concrete for more clues about how the display staged before dawn Sunday sparked a fire that swept through the temple while it was packed with thousands for a religious festival.

The Press Trust of India news agency reported police were investigating six people - missing temple board members and associates of firework contractors - for possible charges of attempted murder and culpable homicide, both punishable by life imprisonment, and illegally storing a cache of explosives.

Following the fire, which broke out on Sunday, villagers and police pulled many of the injured out from under slabs of concrete and twisted steel girders.

Scores of worried relatives crowded the Kollam District Hospital yesterday searching for loved ones still missing.

“We are just trying to calm them down so that they can give us the information, with which we can help them find their missing relatives,” said K. Shijil, a help-desk worker at the hospital who was giving out emergency kits that included a towel, clothes, drinking water and cookies.

Among a throng of people crowding the help desk was Somraj, a gray-haired man in his 50s. He was looking for his son-in-law, Anu Lal, who had been watching the fireworks show with him when the disaster occurred.

“We were about to return home, when Anu said, `Let’s watch for a few more minutes,”’ recalled Somraj, who like many in southern India goes by one name. “Then came this loud explosion, and everything went dark. I’ve been searching for him everywhere.”

The fire started when a spark from the fireworks display ignited a stash of fireworks that had been stored at the temple complex.

Scores of devotees ran in panic as the massive initial blast cut off power in the complex. Flames trapped many devotees inside the 
compound.

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