Five killed in Serum Institute fire; Maharashtra government orders probe
The Maharashtra government has ordered a probe into the fire that broke out at the Serum Institute of India in Pune on Thursday, killing at least five people. The SII is notably the world's largest vaccine manufacturer and has been contracted to manufacture a billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University (labeled 'Covishield' in India). Here are more details.
The fire, which has since been brought under control, reportedly broke out at an under-construction building in the Manjari complex, destroying "a few floors." About eight or nine buildings are being constructed at the Manjari complex to deal with future pandemics, NDTV reported. The facility where COVID-19 vaccines are produced is a few minutes' drive from where the fire had broken out.
Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol said that the cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained. However, it is speculated that welding at the under-construction building caused the fire, Mohol said. Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said welding sparks caused the fire while inflammable material present at the site aggravated it. Other reports said an electrical fault may have caused the fire.
Fire brigade officials rescued nine people trapped inside the burning building. The local administration took three hours to douse the fire, Tope said. At least five people have been confirmed to have died and their families will be provided Rs. 25 lakh each as compensation.
Tope further said that a police investigation is on and a fire audit of the building will be conducted. Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar also said that directives have been issued for a detailed probe. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is also looking into the matter. Thackeray directed the state machinery to coordinate and ensure that the situation is under control, the CMO said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "Anguished by the loss of lives due to an unfortunate fire at the @SerumInstIndia. In this sad hour, my thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. I pray that those injured recover at the earliest."
Anguished by the loss of lives due to an unfortunate fire at the @SerumInstIndia. In this sad hour, my thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. I pray that those injured recover at the earliest.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 21, 2021