Explosion kills 105 in India Hindu temple

An explosion sparked by fireworks has killed at least 105 people at a Hindu temple in the Indian state of Kerala, police say.

The fireworks exploded as thousands of people had gathered to celebrate a local new year festival. More than 200 were injured.

A building at the temple then collapsed, causing many of the deaths.

An investigation has been ordered as officials say permits for the display had been refused after safety fears.

The explosion happened at about 03:30 (11pm Nigerian time Saturday), hours after the event started, in the coastal town of Paravur, in Kollam district.

There were scenes of chaos as emergency teams were slow in reaching the area, witnesses said. Rescue teams used bulldozers to clear the area looking for survivors.

A team of specialist doctors has been sent from Delhi amid reports of horrific burns suffered by those wounded. Several people were said to be in critical condition in hospitals.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has flown to Kerala, said the incident was “heart-rending and shocking beyond words”.

Many of the dead were charred beyond recognition and would have to be identified by DNA tests, Kerala police chief TP Senkumar said.

The fireworks had been stored ready for celebrations of a temple festival.

The local district magistrate had denied permission for the display to be held this year because of safety concerns and complaints from residents about the danger of these fireworks in the past.

A power outage hit the complex after the first explosion, further complicating rescue efforts, a witness said. Houses in the area of the temple were also said to have been badly damaged by the blast.

“Our house is unliveable. Everything is blown off… If we had stayed in our house last night, we would have all died”, resident Anitha Prakash told BBC Hindi.

One of the victims was said to be a biker hit by a piece of flying concrete 1km (0.6 miles) away from the scene.

“Huge pieces of concrete were flying through the air,” said resident Jayashree Harikrishnan. “Chunks landed in our yard.”

The Kerala government has ordered an investigation, and the police are planning to take action against the temple administration and the contractors who were putting on the display.

“There was no permission to even store the fireworks,” Kerala’s Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said.

Fireworks and firecrackers are commonly used at temple festivals and other public events and accidents are not uncommon.

Kerala is in the midst of an election for a new state assembly but political parties have called off campaigning as a mark of respect for the victims.

By midday Sunday, no one was at the temple. Those searching for loved ones had rushed to the local hospital, hoping to find survivors.

Relatives also plastered photos of victims at a temporary medical camp near the temple.

That’s where charred bodies are being stored, as authorities said it would be too difficult to get everyone inside a mortuary to identify all the burned bodies.