PUNE: At least five men died and nine were evacuated after a fire broke out in a five-storey under-construction building at the Serum Institute of India's Manjari premises in Pune on Thursday (January 21). All the deceased were construction workers whose bodies were recovered by fire brigade personnel from the fifth floor, police said.
While an exact cause of the fire is still unknown, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray told reporters yesterday that initial information suggested that an electrical fault caused the fire.
Cyrus S Poonawalla, Chairman and Managing Director, Serum Institute of India said the fire broke out in under installation facility situated at the Special Economic Zone at Manjri.
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that the initial fire was caused by some ongoing welding work at the site.The fire broke out at about 2:45 pm at an under-construction building where vaccine production was supposed to start after a month. The fire broke out at 4th and 5th floor of the SEZ3 building. BCG vaccine laboratory was there at 3rd floor of the same building but that is unaffected. The COVISHIELD plant is almost about 1km distance from fire incident site.
According to police officials, the fire was brought under the control in two hours. Chief Fire Officer Prashant Ranpise said 15 water tankers were pressed into action and the fire was brought under control around 4.30 pm. Viral visuals from the site showed smoke billowing out from the Serum Institute facility. Ranpise added that while the cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, he added that furniture, wiring, cabins were gutted in the flame. No major machinery or instruments were stored on the floors where the fire broke out.
It may be noted that the country's apex drugs regulator had granted restricted emergency use permission to Serum Institute of India's Covishield vaccine in India. Millions of vaccine doses are being manufactured by Serum Institute under technical collaboration with Oxford University/Astra Zeneca.(With PTI inputs)