Serum Institute fire: 5 dead, Covishield production unaffected

Chennai: Five men died after a fire broke out in a five-storeyed under-construction building in the Serum Institute of India’s Manjari premises in Pune on Thursday, police said.

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.

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

The Manjari facility is where the Covishield vaccines used in the nationwide inoculation drive against the pandemic are made. The building where fire broke out is one km from the vaccine 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.

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.

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.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his distress over the incident.

“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.

Cyrus Poonawalla, SII CMD said families of each deceased will get a compensation of Rs 25 lakh.

‘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’, he said in a statement.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said that as per initial information, an electrical fault caused the fire.

Thackeray spoke to Adar Poonawalla about the fire and will be visiting the building today, a CMO official said.

It was also reported that another minor fire broke out in the same building a few hours after the first blaze left five people dead.

 

NT Bureau