Death toll rises in south Indian temple fire

Nearly 80 dead in India temple fire
Nearly 80 dead in India temple fire

More than 80 people were killed on Sunday in a massive blaze sparked by fireworks at a temple in southern India, reports said.

The blaze began when fireworks that were being used to celebrate the start of the local Hindu new year ignited other fireworks being stored in a temple complex in the Indian state of Kerala. Thousands had gathered at the temple site to mark their holiday, reports said. At least 84 people were killed in the fire, a police official told the Associated Press.

Other reports put the death toll close to 100, or even higher. Kerala's Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told Reuters that 97 people were killed in the fire and another 245 were injured. The blaze, which started overnight around 3 a.m. local time, was under control by Sunday morning.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet that he was on his way to Kerala, and that arrangements were being made to move the critically injured via helicopter. He called the fire "heart-rending & shocking beyond words."

"My thoughts are with families of the deceased & prayers with the injured," Modi tweeted.

Officials have said the temple was not supposed to be holding a fireworks display, and that investigations are underway. "There was no permission to even store the fireworks," Kerala's Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said, Reuters reported.

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