Sunday, April 10, 2016, will stand out in public memory in Kerala as the date on which possibly the worst man-made tragedy struck the state. The explosions and fire at Paravurâ€™s Puttingal temple at Kollam in Kerala caused by the accidental detonation of a pile of fireworks has thus far claimed more than a hundred lives.
At the time of writing, the death toll stood at 108. However, the number is likely to increase even further as there are at least 300 wounded persons admitted in various hospitals, some of whom are in a critical condition and may succumb to their injuries.
As it stands, this is possibly the worst tragedy to hit Kerala, as the death toll is already higher than earlier accidents in the state.
Compare, for instance, the stampede that occurred at the Sabarimala temple in January 2011. It resulted in the death of 106 people.
That stampede, which occurred on the ill-fated night of January 14, 2011, was the result of the chaos triggered by an out of control jeep.
It occurred when pilgrims were returning after witnessing the â€˜Makarajyothiâ€™ from the grassland area (Pulmedu) which is about 12 km from Sabarimala.
Peruman train accident
Earlier, the horrific Peruman train accident in July, 1988 had claimed 105 lives.
IN that incident, the Island Express, travelling from Bengaluru to Kanyakumari, derailed on the Peruman bridge over Ashtamudi Lake, near Perinadu, Kollam.
10 coaches fell into the lake killing a 105 people and leaving 200 injured.
Although an enquiry by the Railways concluded that a tornado was behind the accident, there has been vocal disagreement on that theory by locals and survivors.
Some eyewitnesses claim that the reason behind the mishap was overspeeding by the train driver.
Worst-ever fireworks disaster
The News Minute had earlier reported that this incident is the worst ever fireworks-related disaster in the state. The deadliest prior to this was at Sabarimala, in 1952, when 68 people were reported dead at the temple in a similar tragedy.
However, the state is no stranger to fireworks-related accidents. According to media reports, there have been over 400 incidents in the state thus far. More alarmingly, in recent years, there is a distinct upswing in the number of deaths, reaching up to the current death toll of 108.
Eminently avoidable disaster
This tragedy could possibly have been averted if the temple authorities had only paid heed to rules and norms.
In a document dated March 1, the Additional District Magistrate had denied permission for the annual â€˜competitive fireworksâ€™ event, in which two temple priests attempt to outdo each other with arsenals of fireworks. The decision to deny permission was taken based on the reports of revenue and police departments.
Moreover, the license of the contractor supplying fireworks for the ceremony reportedly expired at the end of March.
A judicial level enquiry has been ordered by the state cabinet following a meeting on Sunday.