Fresh fire reported at Serum Institute of India facility where earlier blaze left 5 dead
22 January 2021
Hours after a blaze at serum Institute of India (SII) in Pune left five workers dead, a fresh fire has reportedly broken out at the same facility in the afternoon. Fire fighting operation is underway and workers have been evacuated from the building, say reports.
Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol said the five persons who died in the fire incident were working on the building floor. Fire officials found the charred bodies during an inspection, said Mohol. The deceased have been identified as Rama Shankar Harijan and Bipin Saroj, both residents of Uttar Pradesh, Sushil Kumar Pandey, resident of Bihar and Mahendra Ingle and Pratik Pashte, both residents of Pune. All of them were contractual labourers and were doing some electrical work at the site.
Reports also said that about 200 labourers jumped from windows to safety. “As we could not see anything, we rushed to the windows and started jumping out,” a labourer was quoted as saying.
However, the Covishield facility is reported to be intact and SII said vaccine production will go on unhindered. There will be no impact on Covishield vaccine production due to the fire, said Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla.
"I would like to reassure all governments and 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 @SerumInstIndia," Poonawalla tweeted.
"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," tweeted Poonawalla.
Poonawalla announced compensation of Rs 25 lakh each to the families of the deceased, in addition to mandatory compensation.
Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar ordered a fire audit following the incident. "Our government is trying its best to gather more information. Energy Audit teams have been instructed to conduct the fire audit, they will do it tomorrow," he said. Adding, "Fire brigade has done good work. As per my info, 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 the Rotavirus vaccine."
“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. Prima facie, it seems that the fire was caused by an electric fault. The COVID vaccine is safe…," Thackeray added.
Founded by Cyrus Poonawalla in 1966, the Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd is the world's largest vaccine manufacturer "by the number of doses produced and sold globally (more than 1.5 billion doses)".
SII vaccines are approved by the World Health Organisation and are exported to 170 countries around the world for use in immunisation programmes. An estimated 65 per cent of the children in the world receive at least one vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute.