At least 5 people were killed on Thursday after a major fire broke out at the Serum Institute of India (SII), world's largest vaccine maker that is also producing Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield, in Pune. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind have also expressed their condolences on the tragedy. The Serum Institute has also announced a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to each family who have lost their loved ones in the fire incident. On Friday, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will be visiting the Serum Institute site in Pune.
5 people killed in Serum Institute fire tragedy
5 construction workers — 2 each from Pune, Uttar Pradesh and one from Bihar lost their lives in the incident. Their bodies were recovered by fire brigade personnel from the fifth floor, police said, adding nine others were evacuated from the spot.
Fire cause yet to be ascertained
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.
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.
Serum Institute announces compensation
Announcing the compensation, Cyrus Poonawalla, Chairman & MD, SII said that today is an extremely sorrowful day for all of us at SII. We're deeply saddened and offer our condolences to families of the departed. We'll be offering compensation of Rs 25 Lakhs to each family, in addition to the mandated amount as per the norms.
"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 Rs 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," he added.
PM Modi, President Kovind express concern
"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," Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted | READ MORE
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.
Adar Poonawalla on fire incident, Covishield vaccine safety
"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," Adar Poonawalla, Serum Institute CEO said. | WATCH
He also issued a personal statement of reassurance on vaccine safety. "I would like to reassure all governments and the public that there would no loss of Covishield production due to multiple production buildings that I had kept in reserve to deal with such contingencies at SII," Poonawalla said, seeking to quell anxieties among the company's global clientele.
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 Covishield vaccine manufacturing unit, sources said.
Serum Institute world's largest vaccine manufacturer
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.