INDIA.Mumbai. Five labourers were charred to death in a fire that broke out at 2.45 pm on the fourth and fifth floors of the SEZ III building in the Serum Institute of India (SII) premises at Manjiri in Pune on Thursday. The fire once again broke out late in the evening. However, it was promptly put off by the fire brigade.
The fire in the afternoon was brought under control by eight fire tenders after battling for nearly two hours. Fifteen water tankers were pressed into action and the fire was brought under control around 4.30 pm. Nine persons trapped in the building were evacuated.
Pune Chief Fire Officer Prashant Ranpise said cooling work has commenced at the spot.
“The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained. Furniture, wiring, cabins were gutted. No major machinery or instruments were stored on the floors where the fire broke out,” he added. A National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team was also rushed to the spot.
The under-construction building is adjacent to the plant where “Covishield” is being produced. “Covishield” is developed by Oxford University and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca and manufactured by the SII.
“Five bodies were found by fire brigade” Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol said adding that the five people who died, were perhaps the workers at the under-construction building. The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained but it is being speculated that welding, that was going on at the building, caused the fire.
The Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that the fire was caused by welding sparks at the construction site at the SII. The inflammable material at the site aggravated the fire. The bodies of the deceased have been sent to Noble Hospital for post mortem. The under-construction building is located near the plant which manufactures BCG.
The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi expressed grief over the loss of lives in a fire at Serum Institute Pune. In a tweet, Modi said “Anguished by the loss of lives due to an unfortunate fire at the @SerumInstIndia.
SII announces compensation to the deceased
“Today is an extremely sorrowful day for all of us at SII. We’re deeply saddened & offer our condolences to families of the departed. We’ll be offering compensation of Rs 25 Lakh to each family, in addition to the mandated amount as per the norms. We would like to extend our gratitude to everyone for their concerns and prayers in these distressing times, Cyrus Poonawalla, Chairman & MD, SII said in a statement.
“Covishield” production not affected
SII CEO Adar Poonwalla tweeted “I would like to reassure all governments & the public that there would be no loss of #COVISHIELD production due to multiple production buildings that I had kept in reserve to deal with such contingencies at @SerumInstIndia. Thank you very much @PuneCityPolice & Fire Department”.
Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest maker of vaccines and has been contracted to manufacture a billion doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine. Of the more than 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses expected to be produced this year, rich countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have options to buy even more. As a result, Serum Institute is likely to make most of the vaccines that will be used by developing nations.
Government orders probe
Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said the state government has ordered a probe into the fire. Chief Minister’s Office sources said that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is likely to visit the SII on Friday.