5 dead in Serum Institute fire; Covishield facility unaffected

The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained; furniture, wiring, cabins gutted

5 dead in Serum Institute fire; Covishield facility unaffected

Smoke billows out after a fire broke out at the Serum Institute of India, in Pune on Thursday. PTI photo

Pune, January 21

Five persons died and nine were evacuated from a building in the Serum Institute of India’s Manjari premises here after a fire broke out at the facility on Thursday, police said.

Covishield vaccine production won’t be hit due to the fire, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla said.

Smoke billows out after a fire broke out at the Serum Institute of India, in Pune on Thursday. PTI Photo

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, sources said.

“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,” Poonawalla tweeted.

“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,” Poonawalla added.

Mayor Murlidhar Mohol said it appeared that the five persons who died in the fire were working on the building floor. Fire officials recovered the bodies during an inspection, he said.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said the state government has ordered a probe into the blaze.

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.

Chief Fire Officer Prashant Ranpise said cooling work has commenced at the spot. As many as 15 water tankers were pressed into action and the fire was brought under control around 4.30 pm, he said.

Smoke billows out after a fire broke out at the Serum Institute of India, in Pune on Thursday. PTI Photo

“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 instructed locals officials to carry out a detailed probe into the fire,” Ajit Pawar said.

Workers of Serum Institute of India come out of the building after fire broke out in it on Thursday. PTI Photo

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.

PM expresses anguish at loss of lives

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday expressed grief at the loss of lives in a fire at the Serum Institute of India building.                

Modi tweeted, “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.”

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also said it was distressing to learn of the tragic loss of lives in the fire incident at the facility and urged the state government to provide necessary help to the victims and their families.

“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,” Gandhi said in a tweet.

“My condolences to the family of the deceased. I request the state govt to provide necessary help to the victims & their families,” he said.

Cyrus S Poonawalla, chairman and MD, Serum Institute of India, said the vaccine major would offer a compensation of Rs 25 lakh in addition to the mandated amount to families of persons who died in a fire at the company’s premises in Pune.

All were construction workers whose bodies were recovered by fire brigade personnel from the fifth floor, police said, adding nine others were evacuated from the spot.

“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 Manjari,” Poonawalla said in a statement.

“We are deeply saddened and offer our condolences to the families of the departed. In this regard, we will be offering a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to each of the families, in addition to the mandated amount as per the norms,” he added.

“We would like to extend our gratitude to everyone for their concerns and prayers in these distressing times,” Poonawalla said. PTI

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