New Delhi, India (Citizen Free Press) – A fire that broke out in a building of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer and killed five would not affect vaccine production, the company director said Thursday.
The fire at the Serum Institute of India (SII) in the western city of Pune was brought under control on Thursday, although the cause is still under investigation, according to Murlidhar Mohol, the city’s mayor.
Four people were rescued from the six-story building, but another five died, Mohol said. They are believed to be construction workers, as the building was still under construction at the time of the fire.
Videos and images showed black smoke billowing out of the building at the company compound. Fifteen units from the municipal corporation and the fire department worked to put out the fire, Mohol said.
Preliminary investigations suggest that “during the construction of the building, some welding work could have caused the fire,” he added.
Pune Fire Brigade Chief Prashant Ranpise said Friday that the fire started on the second floor. As firefighters worked to put out the flames, the fire spread to another location. The second fire was extinguished at 4:15 pm local time by 50 firefighters and staff members. Ranpise said they are still investigating the cause of the fire.
“We learned that unfortunately there was some loss of life in the incident. We are deeply saddened and offer our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased, ”SII Executive Director Adar Poonawalla tweeted on Thursday.
SII, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, is partnering with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca to produce the Covishield vaccine. In December, the company said it was producing 50 to 60 million doses of Covishield per month, with production expanding to 100 million doses in January or February.
The Serum Institute of India is a family business started by Poonawalla’s father 50 years ago to bring cheaper vaccines to the masses. It aims to produce hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccines not only for India, but also for other developing countries.
In a tweet, Poonawalla said that even though “some floors were destroyed,” the production of the Covishield vaccine would not be affected.
“I would like to assure all governments and the public that there would be no loss of production from Covishield due to the multiple production buildings it had kept in reserve to deal with such contingencies,” he said.
Cyrus S. Poonawalla, SII president and managing director, said in a statement that the fire broke out at a facility that was restricted in the Manjri Special Economic Zone. He said it was an “extremely sad day” and that the company would offer 2.5 million rupees (US $ 34,000) to each of the victims’ families.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences on Thursday: “Distressed at the loss of life due to an unfortunate fire… In this sad hour, my thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. I pray that the wounded recover as soon as possible. ”