PUNE: Five persons died in a major fire that broke out at the Serum Institute of India‘s (SII) vaccine manufacturing plant at Manjari near Hadapsar in the city around 2.40pm on Thursday.
Pune police commissioner Amitabh Gupta told TOI, “Five completely charred bodies were found at the site and we are investigating the matter.”
“My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. I pray that those injured recover at the earliest,” tweeted PM Modi.
Anguished by the loss of lives due to an unfortunate fire at the @SerumInstIndia. In this sad hour, my thoughts are… https://t.co/AQuF2tqZUs
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1611238352000
We have just received some distressing updates; upon further investigation we have learnt that there has unfortunat… https://t.co/9EZZraQdLe
— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) 1611232060000
Adar Poonawalla, owner and chief executive officer of the SII, said, “The institute’s Covid vaccine manufacturing facility is safe and out of fire ambit. It is the Rotavirus vaccine manufacturing facility which caught the fire.”
Rotaviruses are the most common cause of diarrhoeal disease among infants and young children.
The blaze engulfed the third to sixth floor of the building. There were conflicting versions about the fire starting from third or the sixth floor and the authorities were verifying these details apart form the cause of the fire.
Late on Thursday evening, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who is also Pune’s district guardian minister, said, “The Pune police commissioner has been asked to conduct a thorough inquiry into the fire incident.”
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray also took an update about the incident from Poonawalla and will visit the fire-hit plant on Friday, a release issued by his office said.
Pune mayor Murlidhar Mohol told reporters at the site, “The charred bodies were found on the sixth and the topmost floor of the facility during a search operation after the fire brigade personnel put off the blaze (after over two hours of struggle).”
A contractor hired for civil works at the facility had reported to the authorities during the firefighting effort that some of his men were missing.
Vivek Pradhan, the factory manager, told reporters at the site, “The fire broke out at the Rotavirus lab located on the third floor where a stock of BCG vaccine was stored. Some electrical and pipe fitting work was in progress and at least four workers engaged by a civil contractor were stuck on the terrace and rescued safely by the fire brigade personnel.”
A crowd of local residents and onlookers gathered around the facility as plumes of thick smoke was seen billowing out of the blaze hit third and upper floors of the building.
The Pune municipal corporation’s (PMC) Hadapsar fire station deployed seven fire-fighting tenders and two water tankers, besides, the Pune metropolitan regional development authority too pressed in another five fire-fighting tenders as an elaborate effort was on to bring the blaze under control.
Prashant Ranpise, the PMC’s chief fire officer, told TOI, “Most of the BCG vaccine were kept in airtight glass cabin on the third floor and our firemen found it tough bring the blaze under control.”
Pune district collector Rajesh Deshmukh took an update about the fire incident from Serum institute’s executive director Suresh Jadhav.