A huge fire erupted at a Hindu temple in the Indian state of Kerala, which killed about 100 people and injured 380 others. The devotees had gathered to witness a display of fireworks on the occasion of a local new year celebration.
Puttingal Devi temple, about 43 miles from state capital Thiruvananthapuram and near the coast of Kollam, was packed with thousands of devotees, who were watching the midnight fireworks. The fire and explosions started when one of the crackers fell on a shed which stored the fireworks.
That resulted in massive explosions at the site that also destroyed the temple administration block, and another nearby building.
"There were body parts on the floor and on the roof there was an arm," Anita Prakash, a resident was quoted as saying by Reuters. "In the past, there's been fireworks but not on this scale."
Another eyewitness Bhadran (only first name given) said: "I did not know what happened. There was a huge fireball, and it was all over in five minutes. Once I reached the ground, there were dead bodies all around."
"I thought there was an earthquake and hid under the bed," 58-year-old Nirmala said. "When I came out, there was no electricity. People were running everywhere, and burnt bodies were on the ground. The smell was really bad."
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to the place along with medical staff to assist the state authorities engaged in rescue operations.
He wrote on Twitter: "The fire at the temple in Kollam is heart-rending and shocking beyond words. My thoughts are with families of the deceased and prayers with the injured."
Chief Minister of the State Oommen Chandy said that the injured will receive free treatment from hospitals.
According to local news sources, each year temples hold fireworks displays and compete with each other to host the best ones.
A. Shainamol, Kollam district magistrate, said that people living nearby had complained about the dangers of fireworks for years, but the temples are managed by rich and powerful trusts who often disregard safety regulations.
"There was no permission to even store the fireworks," Chandy said.
A criminal case of culpable homicide has been filed against the temple authorities and two fireworks contractors for illegal possession and sale of explosives.