Death Toll Rises In South Indian Temple Fire

A midnight fireworks display ended in tragedy during a celebration for the local Hindu new year

Debris from the fire in the Indian state of Kerala. — REUTERS
Apr 10, 2016 at 5:19 AM ET

More than 100 people were killed on Sunday in a massive blaze sparked by fireworks at a temple in southern India, reports said.

The blaze began when fireworks that were being used to celebrate the start of the local Hindu new year ignited other fireworks being stored in a temple complex in the Indian state of Kerala. Of the 102 people that died, most of them were killed due to the collapse of the building storing the fireworks, officials told the Associated Press.

Thousands had gathered at the temple site to mark their holiday, reports said. The blaze, which started overnight around 3 a.m. local time, was under control by Sunday morning.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet that he was on his way to Kerala, and that arrangements were being made to move the critically injured via helicopter. He called the fire “heart-rending & shocking beyond words.”

“My thoughts are with families of the deceased & prayers with the injured,” Modi tweeted.

Officials have said the temple was not supposed to be holding a fireworks display, and that investigations are underway.  “There was no permission to even store the fireworks,” Kerala’s Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said, Reuters reported.