Five dead in fire at Serum Institute of India’s plant in Pune

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Updated: January 21, 2021 11:05 PM

Serum Institute is one of the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world. Serum is the manufacturer of Covishield vaccine, approved by the Centre for Covid-19.

Fire breaks out at Serum Institute of India Pune plantFire breaks out at Serum Institute of India's Pune plant: Smoke billows out after a massive fire broke out at the Serum Institute of India, in Pune. (PTI photo)

Fire breaks out at Serum Institute of India’s Pune plant: Five people have lost their lives in fire that broke out at a facility of Serum Institute in Pune on Thursday. Initially, it was reported that only five people were inside the building, but it turned out that at least 11 people were inside the facility. A total of 15 fire tenders were rushed to the site to douse the fire. The site where the fire broke out, is an under-construction building at Serum Institute of India.

Maharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar to ANI: “Contractor’s men were working on that floor (where the fire broke out) and when the fire brigade officials went there, they found five completely burnt bodies. 2 of them were from UP, 2 from Pune and 1 is from Bihar. Fire brigade has done good work. As per my information, CM will also visit the site tomorrow. The place where COVID vaccine is manufactured was not affected. I was informed that preparation was going on at this building (site of fire) to make Rotavirus vaccine. Our government is trying its best to gather more information. Energy Audit teams have been instructed to conduct fire audit, they will do it tomorrow.”

Fire at Serum Institute of India – What we know so far:

Where did the fire break out?
The Fire broke out in the building and facility which is being prepared for another vaccine product (not Covishield) that Serum is working on and therefore there is no impact on Covishield.

What caused the fire?
While the cause is being investigated, one plausible explanation is that perhaps it is due to some welding work happening at the location and it could have perhaps resulted in a spark which could have initiated the fire.

Cyrus S. Poonawalla, Chairman & Managing Director, Serum Institute of India, releases a statement on Twitter regarding the incident: “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 INR 25 lakhs to each of the families, in addition to the mandated amount as per the norms.”

President Ram Nath Kovind tweets: “The loss of lives in a fire accident at the Serum Institute of India in Pune is distressing. My thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families. I wish speedy recovery of the injured.”

PM Narendra Modi tweets: “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.”

Another fire breaks out at Serum Institute Pune: Later in the evening on Thursday, ANI reported that another fire broke out in one compartment of the same building at Serum Institute of India (SII), in Pune.

Rahul Gandhi tweets urging Maharashtra government to provide necessary help to victims, kin: “While it’s distressing to learn of the tragic loss of lives in the fire incident at Serum Institute, the news of another fire is extremely worrying. My condolences to the family of the deceased. I request the state govt to provide necessary help to the victims & their families.”

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope: “Serum Institute of India’s building in Manjri (Pune) caught fire due to some ongoing welding work. Insulation material, which is inflammable, was kept near the work site. So far, 5 deaths have been reported.”

Serum CEO Adar Poonawalla: “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.”

Five dead in fire at Serum Institute

“Four people were evacuated from the building but when it came under control, five bodies were found by our jawans,” says Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol.

Fire under control: Chief fire officer, PMC

Pune Municipal Corporation chief fire officer Prashant Ranpise says fire is under control, cooling process is underway. No casualty reported, cause of the fire is still unknown.

Financial Express Online learns that while the fire was in the plant it is not in the location where the Covishield vaccine is being stored. It was an area under development and therefore none of the vaccine supplies will be impacted by this. There are also no reports as yet of any harm to people and all are apparently safe. However, the cause of the fire is still not clear.

Pune Police Commissioner Amitabh Gupta says that the fire broke out at Manjri plant where production wasn’t happening there but preparation was on to begin it at a later stage. “Fire will be doused in an hour. No problem at vaccine plant/storage,” he adds.

Speaking to India Today TV, chief fire officer Prashant Ranpise said that the fire department received the first call at 2.45. He said currently 15 fire tenders were at the spot to douse the fire. He said fire was at three floors, 4, 5 and 6th. The officer said that so far four people have been rescued but he can not confirm if anyone else is trapped inside the building. The cause of the fire is yet to be investigated.

Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla said that  he was focused to rescue one or two people who might still be stuck in the building. “I don’t care about anything else at the moment. So I wouldn’t want to comment on anything else. We are looking at trying to get these people out first. Then will assess the damage.”

Efforts are being made to douse the fire and rescue the other person trapped inside the building but thick layer of black smoke is making it difficult for firefighters to complete the rescue operation. The incident of fire at the Serum Institute took place at Manjri Plant. It will not affect the production of vaccine, ANI reported citing sources.

Maharashtra CMO says that chief minister Uddhav Thackeray is in touch with Pune Municipal Commissioner and is taking complete on-ground updates. He has directed state machinery to coordinate and ensure that situation is under control. One team of NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) has been moved for Serum Institute of India.

Serum Institute is one of the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world. Serum is the manufacturer of Covishield vaccine, approved by the Centre for Covid-19.

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