PM Modi Condoles Deaths in Serum Institute Fire, Vaccine Maker Announces Rs 25 Lakh Compensation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday expressed grief at the loss of lives in a fire at the Serum Institute of India building. Five people died and nine were evacuated from the building in the institute’s of Manjari premises in Maharashtra after the fire broke out at the facility, police said.

“Anguished by the loss of lives due to an unfortunate fire at the @SerumInstIndia. In this sad hour, my thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. I pray that those injured recover at the earliest,” Modi tweeted. Modi was briefly in the first floor of the building during his visit to the Serum Institute of India (SII) in November last year to review the status of the vaccine candidate, SII sources said.

Covishield vaccine production won’t be hit due to the fire, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla said. He also announced a compensation of Rs 25 lakhs to each of the families.

“Today is an extremely sorrowful day for all of us at Serum Institute of India. Regrettably, there were losses of lives in the fire that broke out in our under installation facility situated at the Special Economic Zone at Manjri. We are deeply saddened and offer our condolences to the families of the departed. In this regard, we will be offering a compensation of INR 25 lakhs to each of the families, 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” Poonawalla said in a social media post.

Mayor Murlidhar Mohol said fire officials recovered the five bodies during the cooling operation. Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said the state government has ordered a probe into the fire.

The fire, which broke out at 2.45 pm on the fourth and fifth floors of the building, was brought under control in two hours, police said. Deputy Commissioner of Police Namrata Patil told PTI that nine people were evacuated from the building.

Viral visuals from the site showed smoke billowing out from the Serum Institute facility. Chief Fire Officer Prashant Ranpise said 15 water tankers were pressed into action and the fire was brought under control around 4.30 pm.

“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 said.

Ajit Pawar said, “I have taken information from the Pune Municipal Corporation about the incident and instructed locals officials to carry out a detailed probe into the fire.”

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray told reporters that as per initial information, an electrical fault caused the fire. “As per initial information, the fire did not erupt at the unit where the COVID-19 vaccine is being produced, but in the unit where the BCG vaccine is produced,” Thackeray said.

Asked about claims that the fire was due to sabotage, Thackeray quipped, They (those making the claim) need to be administered the vaccine of patience.” Thackeray spoke to Poonawalla about the fire and will be visiting the building on Friday, a CMO official said. Ajit Pawar visited the building on Thursday evening, another official said.

President Ram Nath Kovind in a Twitter post said, “The loss of lives in a fire accident at the Serum Institute of India in Pune is distressing. My thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families. I wish speedy recovery of the injured.”

However, hours after the first blaze another fire has broken out in the same building in Pune. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, “While it’s distressing to learn of the tragic loss of lives in the fire incident at Serum Institute, the news of another fire is extremely worrying.”

Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by number of doses produced and sold globally (more than 1.5 billion doses) which includes Polio vaccine as well as Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hib, BCG, r-Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccines, as per the company’s website.

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