Workers of SII come out of the building after a fire broke out in it, in Pune on January 21, 2021. Photo: PTI
New Delhi: Five persons died and nine were evacuated from a building in the Serum Institute of India’s Manjari premises in Pune after a big fire broke out at the facility on Thursday.
SII is the world’s biggest vaccine maker. The Manjari facility is where the ‘Covishield’ vaccine used in the nationwide inoculation drive against the pandemic is made. SII is producing around 50 million doses of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca a month in the complex.
The building where the fire broke out is part of the under-construction site of the Serum facility and is one kilometre from the Covishield manufacturing unit, PTI reported.
The fire will not affect production of coronavirus vaccines, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla has said.
Poonawalla had first tweeted that no lives had been lost and later posted that news had come in of the deaths.
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 (@adarpoonawalla) January 21, 2021
Videos and pictures from news agency ANI showed black smoke billowing out of a grey building.
Maharashtra: Fire breaks out at Terminal 1 gate of Serum Institute of India in Pune. More details awaited. pic.twitter.com/RnjnNj37ta
— ANI (@ANI) January 21, 2021
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.
The fire, which broke out at 2.45 pm on the fourth and fifth floors of the SEZ 3 building in the Serum Institute premises, was brought under control in two hours, police said.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Namrata Patil told PTI that nine people were evacuated from the spot after the fire broke out.
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.
Pray for India
Pray of Serum Institute 🤞😳
— Sameet Thakkar (@thakkar_sameet) January 21, 2021
“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.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said the state government has ordered a probe into the blaze.
“I have taken information from the Pune Municipal Corporation about the incident and instructed locals officials to carry out a detailed probe into the fire,” Ajit Pawar said.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray told reporters that as per initial information, an electrical fault caused the fire.
“As per initial information, the fire did not erupt at the unit where the COVID-19 vaccine is being produced, but in the unit where the BCG vaccine is produced,” Thackeray said.
(With Reuters and PTI inputs)
Note: The story has been updated since publication to include the death toll.