Cops hunt officials in India
NEW DELHI — Indian police detained five people on Monday after a fireworks display at a Hindu temple set off explosions and fire killing 108 people in one of the worst accidents at a religious festival.
Thousands of people were gathered at the temple at Kollam in the southern state of Kerala on Sunday for the pyrotechnic show to mark the start of the Hindu year when sparks ignited a cache of fireworks stored inside the temple grounds.
The district administration said it had not given permission for the fireworks display following complaints of noise and pollution.
Police officer Anantha Krishnan said the five taken into custody were employees of a fireworks manufacturer who was given the contract for running the show at the Puttingal Devi temple.
The head of the manufacturing unit was injured, one of 380 people who were in hospitals across the state with burns as well as injuries caused by flying concrete and debris.
Kerala is studded with temples managed by rich and powerful trusts that often flout local regulations.
Each year temples hold fireworks displays, often competing to stage the most spectacular ones, with judges who decide the winners.
On Monday, grieving relatives of the victims were scouring the temple grounds for possessions of their loved ones among the shoes, handbags and other articles strewn in a pile of debris and a puddle, dark red with blood.
“There were so many men and women lying on the ground, lifeless,” said Anish Kumar, a resident.