At least five persons were killed in a fire that broke out on the campus of the Serum Institute of India (SII) at Manjari in Pune on Thursday afternoon, officials confirmed. Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla has clarified that the fire will not impact Covishield production.
The fire brigade team found the bodies of five persons, including one woman, after the blaze was brought under control. “It is unfortunate that five people lost their lives in the fire. More facts are awaited,” Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol said.
The bodies of the five have been taken to Pune’s Sassoon hospital. Mayor Mohol said, “Preliminary information, which is yet to be confirmed, suggests that these five persons were workers employed by a contractor. There are reports that the fire started at the place where welding work in the new building was on.”
Late evening, another minor fire was reported from the campus. Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced he will visit the SII unit tomorrow to take stock of the situation.
Serum Institute has announced a sum of Rs 25 lakh each for the families of the five deceased. “We are deeply saddened and offer our condolences to the families of the departed. In this regard, we will be offering a compensation of INR 25 lakhs to each of the families, in addition to the mandated amount as per the norms,” the SII said in a statement.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condoled the loss of lives in the fire. “Anguished by the loss of lives due to an unfortunate fire at the Serum Institute of India. 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,” he said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, a fire brigade official said the fire was reported on the fifth floor of the new building on the Manjari campus. “As per our knowledge, the building is not directly connected to Covishield manufacturing,” he said.
Corroborating this, SII factory manager Vivek Pradhan said the floor where the fire broke out was a rota-virus lab. “There is no stock of Covishield,” he said.
“The fire was brought under control at 4.15 pm. Cooling operations, in which water is used to reduce the increased temperature on the premises, are currently on. A total of nine people who were trapped have been rescued,” Prashant Ranpise, the Chief Fire Officer with Pune City Fire Brigade, had said earlier.
Poonawalla said “there would be no loss of Covishield production” due to multiple production buildings kept in reserve.
He tweeted: “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. Thank you very much @PuneCityPolice & Fire Department
A total of 10 fire tenders, a hydraulic lift and other equipment were deployed to bring the fire under control. A team from the 5th Battalion of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) stationed at Talegaon near Pune was also sent to the spot.
India has approved two vaccines — Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech, and Covishield from the Oxford/AstraZeneca stable, being manufactured by Pune-headquartered Serum Institute of India.