At least five charred bodies were recovered on Thursday from the Serum Institute of India (SII) building that caught fire in the afternoon, said Pune Mayor. The mayor said that the bodies were found from the sixth floor of the building and steps are being taken for their identification.
The fire in SII broke out where the BCG vaccine is made and the Covishield facility has not been affected, said, officials. So far, nine persons have been evacuated from the building in the SII's Manjari premises. There would be no loss of Covishield production due to the fire, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla said.
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.
"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 tweeted. "I would like to reassure all governments & the public that there would be no loss of COVISHIELD production due to multiple production buildings that I had kept in reserve to deal with such contingencies at Serum Institute of India. Thank you very much Pune City Police & Fire Department," he added.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said the state government has ordered a probe into the fire. Pawar will visit Serum Institute of India fire site at 7:30 pm.
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.
Viral visuals from the site showed smoke billowing out from the Serum Institute facility. A fire brigade official said the cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained. A National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team was rushed to the spot, an official said.
Pune Police Commissioner Amitabh Gupta said all the people trapped inside the building where the fire broke out have been evacuated. Chief Fire Officer Prashant Ranpise said cooling work has commenced at the spot. Nobody was injured in the fire, he added.
Fifteen water tankers were pressed into action and the fire was brought under control around 4.30 pm, he said. "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. "I have taken information from the Pune Municipal Corporation about the incident and an instruction has been given to carry out a detailed probe into the incident," Ajit Pawar 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.