Pune: As many as five people died in the fire that broke out at Serum Institute of India's (SII) Manjari plant on Thursday afternoon. A total of six people have been rescued from the spot.
"The five people who died were perhaps the workers at the under-construction building. The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained but it is being speculated that welding, that was going on at the building, caused the fire," said Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol. Adar Poonawalla, the Chief executive officer (CEO) and owner of SII expressed grief over the loss of lives.
"We have just received some distressing updates; upon further investigation, we've learnt that there has unfortunately been some loss of life. We are deeply saddened and offer our deepest condolences to family members of the departed," Poonawalla tweeted.
Earlier, SII CEO had said there would be no loss of COVISHIELD production due to multiple production buildings.
"I would like to reassure all governments and the public that there would be no loss of #COVISHIELD production due to multiple production buildings that I had kept in reserve to deal with such contingencies at @SerumInstIndia. Thank you very much Pune City Police and Fire Department," Poonawalla said in another tweet.
Previously, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the fire may have been caused by an electric fault. "Six people have been rescued (from fire). Prima facie it seems that the fire was caused by an electric fault. The COVID vaccine is safe. I have not spoken to Adar Poonawalla till now," said Maharashtra CM.
Earlier, Chief fire officer of Pune Municipal Corporation had informed that fire at the Serum Institute building is under control and cooling process is underway.
The fire broke out at about 2:45 pm at an under-construction building where vaccine production was supposed to start after a month. The fire broke out at 4th and 5th floor of the SEZ3 building. BCG vaccine laboratory was there at 3rd floor of the same building but that is unaffected. The COVISHIELD plant is almost about 1km distance from fire incident site.
It may be noted that the country's apex drugs regulator had granted restricted emergency use permission to SII's Covishield vaccine in India.
Millions of vaccine doses are being manufactured by Serum Institute under technical collaboration with Oxford University/Astra Zeneca. It is pertinent to note that COVISHIELD (SII-ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) vaccine contains the replication-deficient simian adenovirus vector ChAdOx1, containing the structural surface glycoprotein (Spike protein) antigens of SARS-CoV-2.