Kerala temple tragedy: 'All over in a few minutes'

victims of the temple blast

More than 100 people were killed and 400 injured in an explosion and fire at a Hindu temple in Kerala, after a faulty rocket fell onto a large stockpile of fireworks. BBC Hindi’s Divya Arya met the families of some of the victims.

‘Orphaned in minutes’

Twelve-year-old Kishore Bansi and his sister Krishna had been at the festival along with their parents, helping them run a small tea stall behind the temple.

The two children had left their parents’ stall to collect some plastic cups from their grandfather, when they heard the explosion and saw the fire break out at the temple.

They ran back to their parents’ stall, only to find their bodies lying there.

The two children and their grandfather collapsed in the panic and confusion that followed the explosion.

Bystanders took the bodies of their parents, 43-year-old Bansi and 41-year-old Baby Girija, to hospital.

The children have not spoken a word since the incident, their maternal aunt Suchita tells the BBC.

“They had turned their backs for only a few minutes and everything was over,” she says.

“The family will take care of these children, but there is a big question mark on their future now.”

‘His five-year-old performed the last rites’

Anita Kumar was able to identify her brother Uday’s body only on Monday, more than 24 hours after he died in the temple fire.

“I would have still not recognised him, but I spotted a mark that a recent appendicitis surgery had left on his stomach. I just knew then,” she tells the BBC.

She recounts how her family had made endless trips to hospitals in search of her brother until they finally recognised him through a photograph shown to them by police.

They then collected his body from a private hospital and his five-year-old son performed the last rites.

Uday Kumar was “fascinated” by the annual fireworks show at the temple, Ms Kumar says.

His wife, who had gone with him to the festival, suffered burn injuries and multiple fractures.

‘We couldn’t find him in time’

A poster outside this Kerala neighbourhood announces the death of 35-year-old Kashinath, who used only one name.

A businessman and local leader with the Congress party, Kashinath had gone to watch the fireworks display with a few of his friends from the police force .

His elder brother, Prafash, rushed to the spot after he heard the explosion but said he couldn’t find Kashinath in the darkness caused by the power outage immediately after the explosion.

The search continued as family members spread across different hospitals.

It was much later that a police officer contacted the family to let them know that Kashinath had died.

“He was buried under the rubble of one of the structures of the temple that had collapsed and died before he could be taken to a hospital,” Prafash says.

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