Kerala temple fire: Indian expat from Oman recounts tale of horror

Oman Monday 11/April/2016 21:31 PM
By: Times News Service
Kerala temple fire: Indian expat from Oman recounts tale of horror

Muscat: “I fell onto ground in the explosion. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was dying. I couldn’t see anything. The gunpowder smell was suffocating. Somehow, when I stood up, I realised I was injured too, and bleeding. Then I managed to get out of the accident site stumbling many times on the bodies of injured people lying on the ground.”
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These were the words of Rajendran Pillai Rajeev, a site supervisor working at Wimpey Laboratories in Muscat, who had gone on leave, to the South Indian state of Kerala, to attend the Puttingal Temple festival where a fireworks accident claimed 109 lives so far and leaving around 500 people injured in different hospitals in the state.
The devastating fire had engulfed the 100-year-old Puttingal Devi Temple complex at Kollam during an unauthorised display of fireworks early Sunday morning. Thousands of people had gathered at the temple for the pyrotechnic show to mark the start of the Hindu year when sparks ignited a cache of fireworks stored inside the temple grounds.
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“It was a chaotic scene. Everything was fine to start with. As it’s considered one of the biggest fireworks shows in the state, people had turned up in large numbers to watch it. Suddenly, the store where firecrackers were stored caught fire. This led to huge explosions. The entire area shook, the power supply snapped. It was fire everywhere,” Rajeev, who has also lost his wife’s distant relative in the accident, told the Times of Oman over phone from Kerala.
“I was hit by shrapnels from the explosions. I was bleeding and hurt like anything. Many of my friends are still in hospitals undergoing treatment,” Rajeev said, thanking the Almighty for saving his life.
“As I was shocked and running for shelter, I couldn’t notice who was lying on the ground with injuries. Whether they were dead or not, I didn’t know. It was a chaotic scene,” Rajeev, who had gone to watch the festival with five other friends, added.
According to Rajeev, many are still flocking to hospitals looking for the missing persons. Rajeev stays only 2km away from the temple and had gone to attend the festival at around 11:30pm.
Meanwhile, police have registered case against 25 people including 15 temple committee members, two fireworks contractors and others, for attempt to murder and other charges in connection with the temple fire tragedy.