Pune: A major fire broke out at Serum Institute of India on Thursday claiming five lives. The fire engulfed the top three floors of a newly constructed six-storey building inside the institute campus.
Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine company presently catering to the production of Covid-19 vaccine Covishield, a version of Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine. In a media interaction, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said, “The fire has caused lots of damage but has not impacted the production of Covishield Vaccine.”
He further confirmed in a tweet, “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.” He grieved over the lives lost in the fire, all of whom were doing welding and air-conditioning jobs inside the building. The Institute clarified that none of the deceased was an employee of SII. However, SII has announced ex-gratia relief of Rs. 25 lakh each for the 5 victims of the fire.
According to police and fire brigade officials, the fire began between 1.45 pm to 2.15 pm on Thursday and was brought under control by 4.30 pm. Around 70 fire personnel were involved in the operation and dense smoke could be seen coming out of the building from several kilometers away.
The lower floors of the building in which the fire broke have laboratory facilities for SII’s Rotavirus and BCG vaccines. The upper floors of the same were unoccupied. The production units and laboratories for the Covid-19 vaccine are located in another building on the SII campus.
The bodies were discovered after firefighters entered the building. The situation is now under control and recovery operations are being performed to measure the total loss of SII.
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