India / 5 dead in fire at coronavirus vaccine maker Serum Institute of India's plant

Vikrant Shekhawat : Jan 21, 2021, 07:25 PM
Pune: The major fire that broke out at the Pune-based Serum Institute of India's building Thursday afternoon led to the death of five people while the rescue team evacuated four, Pune Mayor said.

"Four people were evacuated from the building but when it came under control, five bodies were found by our jawans," said Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol, according to news agency ANI.

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, Mohol added.

Meanwhile, Serum chief Adar Poonawalla also expressed condolences for the loss of lives.

"We have just received some distressing updates; upon further investigation, we have learnt that there has unfortunately been some loss of life at the incident. We are deeply saddened and offer our deepest condolences to the family members of the departed," tweeted Poonawalla.

The Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, is involved in manufacturing Covid-19 vaccine Covishield – developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca – which has been given emergency use authorisation in India recently and is being used for inoculation in the country's mega vaccination drive.

Previously, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackray held a press briefing following the mishap where he said that six people have been rescued from the affected building.

"Six people have been rescued (from fire). Prima facie it seems that the fire was caused by an electric fault. The COVID vaccine is safe. I have not spoken to Adar Poonawalla till now," Uddhav said.

Earlier, Chief fire officer of Pune Municipal Corporation had informed that fire at the Serum Institute building is under control and cooling process is underway.

The Manjari facility is where the Covishield vaccine used in the nationwide inoculation drive against the pandemic is made. The building where the fire broke out is part of the under-construction site of the Serum facility and is one km from the Covishield manufacturing unit, PTI sources said.

However, Poonawalla informed that there would be no loss of Covishield production due to the fire.

The fire, which broke out at 2.45 pm on the fourth and fifth floors of the SEZ 3 building in the Serum Institute premises, was brought under control in two hours, police said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Namrata Patil told PTI that nine people were evacuated from the spot after the fire broke out.

Viral visuals from the site showed smoke billowing out from the Serum Institute facility.

A fire brigade official said cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained.

A National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team was rushed to the spot, an official said.

Fifteen water tankers were pressed into action and the fire was brought under control around 4.30 pm, he said.

"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.

"I have taken information from the Pune Municipal Corporation about the incident and an instruction has been given to carry out a detailed probe into the incident," Ajit Pawar said.