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    Serum Institute fire leaves 5 dead, welding work caused blaze, says Tope

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    The fire at the Serum Institute plant near Pune has claimed five lives, sources has reported, after five charred bodies were recovered from the site. SII CEO Adar Poonwalla, after initially tweeting that no lives had been lost, confirmed the casualties on Twitter.

    “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 tweeted.

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

    Nine persons were evacuated from the building in the Serum Institute of India’s Manjari premises near Pune after a fire broke out at 2.45pm on the fourth and fifth floors of the SEZ 3 building. The fire has been brought under control.

    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.

    Poonawalla said there would be no loss of Covishield production due to the fire, as multiple production buildings had been kept in reserve for such a contingency. A few floors had been destroyed.

    Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said the state government has ordered a probe into the fire. Blaze caused by welding work near inflammable material

    Later in the day, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope told reporters that the fire started when welding work was conducted near inflammable material. It took three hours in total to extinguish the fire, which has claimed three lives, and a total of five fire engines and three water tankers was used.

    Initially, it was thought that all labourers had been evacuated from the area but after the fire was put out, when officials went to the affected area, they found five bodies.

    The fire broke out at 2:45 pm on the fourth and fifth floors of the SEZ 3 building in the Serum Institute premises, sources reported. A National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team was rushed to the spot, an official said.

    Chief Fire Officer Prashant Ranpise said cooling work has commenced at the spot.

    Fifteen water tankers were pressed into action and the fire was brought under control around 4.30 pm, he said.

    Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has asked the state machinery to ensure that the fire is brought under control, his office tweeted. He is in touch with the Pune Municipal Commissioner, the CMO added.

    Rs 25 lakh compensation for families of victims

    Serum Institute Chairman and Managing Director Cyrus Poonawalla released a statement expressing regret over the incident and announcing compensation for the families of those who lost their lives in the blaze.

    “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,” Poonawalla said.

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

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