He was knocked unconscious

I saw a huge fireball hurtling towards me a survivors account of the Kollam fire tragedy
news Kollam Fire Sunday, April 10, 2016 - 11:59

When Manu went to the Puttingal temple on Saturday night, he would have hardly imagined that a ball of fire would hurtle towards him in a few hours.

Manu (31) of Kalamballam reached the temple at around 11.30 pm on Saturday night to witness the festivities at the temple in Paravur, Kollam district. Celebrations started by midnight and continued into the early hours of the following morning.

Read: Kerala temple tragedy: What exactly happened at Paravur? Crystal clear explanation

Around 3.45 am, while he stood around half a kilometre away from the temple grounds -where hundreds of people had gathered- he heard a deafening blast. The very next moment saw a huge fireball hurtling towards him. Trying to escape, he ran towards a neighbouring house, but got blasted by the fireball  as well as the roofing of the house which crumbled onto him. That’s the last thing he remembers, he told The News Minute from a bed at the Kollam district hospital. When he recovered consciousness, he realized he had been brought to the hospital by bystanders who were lucky enough to escape without any injuries.

Other witnesses of the events at the Puttingal temple said that the death toll and the number of injured were actually low soley because the tragedy had occurred in the wee hours of the morning and around 75% of the fireworks was already over by then. It was only an hour earlier that most of the women-folk and kids had gone home. Had the blast occured at that time -they say- the numbers would have been much higher. 

Another survivor Santhosh (34) from Paravur was standing near the Devaswom building. He recalls being blown away by the blast, thereby sustaining head injuries. HIs lower lip juts out swollen with lacerations seen on his upper torso and arms.

Innumerable people sustained injuries due to the tremendous impact of the blast combined with the flying debris of the Kambapuram (a shaded concrete structure where the fireworks display is held), most of which was literally blown off while the rest of the structure came crashing to the ground. 

A young wife -Deepa Anand- could be seen wailing inconsolably near the entrance of the Kollam district hospital. On hearing about the tragedy, she had come rushing there with her four year old son -Shreya- and one and a half year old daughter -Shreya- for some news of her 37-year old husband Sivanandan who  too was present on the temple grounds at the time of tragedy. She last spoke to him around 11pm the previous night and had simply assumed that he would come back by around midnigh,t as was his usal wont at the time of temple festivities.

In the morning, an acquaintance told her that he had seen Sivanandan at the hospital. But from the time she had arrived and after a lot of asking around, she realized that his name did not figure in any of the lists of injured people released by the government. Volunteers had a hard time convincing her to return home . She left only after being assured that being a UDF worker, her husband may have stayed back to help ferry the injured to the various hospitals and that his mobile was switched off probably due to the battery getting drained out of charge. 

While leaving, she turned around one last time and said: "My heart refuses to believe otherwise."

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