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Serum Institute’s Manjri plant massive fire claims 5 lives: Reports

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Pune: The massive fire that engulfed Serum Institute of India’s Manjri Plant in Pune on Thursday reportedly took five lives, whereas nine people trapped inside the building were rescued from the disaster. The deaths were confirmed by Pune district collector Rajesh Deshmukh three hours after the fire broke through vaccine production unit.

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

The mayor further added that the five people who died, were perhaps the labours at the under-construction building. “The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained but it is being speculated that welding, that was going on at the building, caused the fire,” he said.

During the rescue drill, authorities rushed inside the smoke filled building and evacuated nine people trapped inside in the Serum Institute of India’s Manjari premises, reported the police.

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Meanwhile, as per the CEO of Serum Institute Adar Poonwalla the production work of vaccine manufacturing won’t be impacted as the area where fire was reported was in use for manufacturing Rotavirus and BCG vaccines instead of coronavirus shots.

“Thank you everyone for your concern and prayers. So far the most important thing is that there have been no lives lost or major injuries due to the fire, despite a few floors being destroyed,” Poonawalla tweet read.

To note, Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest manufacturer of Covid-19 vaccines and has been contracted to produce a billion doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine. Meanwhile, the SII is expected to produce 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses by the end of this year, of which nearly 9 billion have already been bought by rich countries, whereas many others are likely to buy even more.

The Manjri facility of SII is where the Covishield vaccine, used in the nationwide inoculation drive against the deadly virus, is made. The building which reported the fire is part of the under-construction site of the Serum facility and is one km from the Covishield manufacturing unit, as per sources.

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To investigate the cause of the blaze, authorities are investigating all aspects of the mishap. Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said the state government has ordered a probe into the fire.

Though the exact cause of fire is still known, according to preliminary information, the fire out at 2.45 pm on the fourth and fifth floors of the SEZ 3 building in the Serum Institute premises, where construction work was going on and preparation for production of BCG vaccine was underway. As per the Chief Fire Officer Prashant Ranpise, fire was brought under control around 4.30 pm, and cooling work has also been commenced at the spot.

“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.

To rescue people inside the premises, along with 15 fire engines, ambulances, a National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team was also rushed to the spot, an official said.

According to reports, the Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was constantly in touch with the Pune Municipal Commissioner over the matter and directed the state machinery to coordinate and ensure that the situation is under control. Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who also happened to be in Pune, also took stock of the situation.

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