Fire at Serum Institute plant in Pune: At least five dead! Here's what Institute's Chief said

In a shocking development, at least five had died as the sequel of a fire accident at a plant of the Serum Institute of India in Pune. The Serum Institute of India (SII) has been in the national spotlight for manufacturing Covishield, which is one of India's indigenous COVID-19 vaccines. The incident had happened on Thursday afternoon and five charred bodies were recovered from the building.

The visuals from the spot had shown billowing smoke and the local administration had deployed evacuative measures in dousing the fire and rescuing the trapped people. According to reports, the fire was reported at a building near the Terminal 1 gate which is located in the Manjri area, Pune on Thursday afternoon. SII's Executive Director Suresh Jadhav said that the facility where the fire broke out is situated far from where the Covishield vaccine is manufactured and stored. 

The reports say that the fire broke out at the building that was under construction inside the institute's premises and the incident won't affect the vaccine production. Chief Executive Officer of SII, Adar Poonawalla took to Twitter and said, "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". 

Sharing that the incident had claimed five lives, Poonawalla said, "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." SII is domestically manufacturing Covishield, which was developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca. SII is spread over 100 acres of land in Pune and the institute is the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world. 

The reports close to the development say that the site which went through the fire mishap was far from the area where the vaccines have been stored and the entire area is also a part of a Special Economic Zone. The fire was reported on the fifth floor of the plant, where BCG-vaccine related work has been under process. The incident came to light at around 2.50 pm on Thursday and fire tenders and evacuative measures were deployed. 

According to reports, it took around three hours for firemen to bring the situation under control and the cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained. The SII has been constructing eight to nine buildings at the Manjari complex to deal with future pandemics and these buildings are aimed at enhancing the institute's manufacturing capability. Maharashtra's Chief Minister's office tweeted that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is in touch with the Pune Municipal Commissioner and is taking complete on-ground updates. He has directed the state machinery to coordinate and ensure that the situation is under control. 

It must be noted that being the largest vaccine producer in the world, SII makes vaccines against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, and rubella which are exported to more than 170 countries and now the institute is also producing the vaccine for COVID-19. Recently, the company has spent nearly a billion dollars to enlarge and improve the Pune campus.