Five surrender in deadly India temple fire

Associated Press

Paravoor, India — Five people who fled after a weekend fire killed at least 110 people at the southern Indian temple where they are board members have surrendered to police to face prosecution, police said Tuesday.

A police officer said the five were taken into custody late Monday after a two-day hunt by police.

Police are investigating temple board members and associates of firework contractors for possible charges of attempted murder and culpable homicide, both punishable by life imprisonment, and illegally storing a cache of explosives.

Besides the deaths in the early Sunday blaze at the Hindu Puttingal Devi temple complex in the village of Parador in Kerala state, more than 380 people were injured.

Rescue workers were sifting through the debris for clues about how an unauthorized fireworks display sparked the fire that swept through the temple as it was packed with thousands for a religious festival.

Police questioned five workers on Monday about fireworks stored at the site, hoping to learn more about who owned the fireworks and who had contracted the pyrotechnical display, police constable R. Unnikrishnan Nair said. The five were later released.

The death toll from the disaster stood at 110, with more than 380 injured, including many with burns and other injuries suffered when an adjacent building storing fireworks collapsed, police said.

Villagers and police had to pull many of the injured out from under slabs of concrete and twisted steel girders.

Meanwhile, a judge filed a petition in the Kerala state High Court on Monday calling for an immediate ban on the use of high-decibel explosive fireworks in the state. The court will take up the petition on Tuesday.

The Travancore Devaswom Board, which runs more than 1,200 temples in the state, said it was opposed to a complete ban. Prayar Gopalakrishnan, the board’s president, said the displays were part of temple festival rituals, but added that they should be done with sufficient safety precautions.