April 12, 2016 / 5:20 PM / in 3 years

Indian court bans use of high-decibel crackers after temple fireworks blaze kills 110

KOCHI, India (Reuters) - An Indian high court on Tuesday banned the use of high-decibel firecrackers between sunset and sunrise after a fireworks display at a Hindu temple in Kerala state ignited a series of explosions and killed 110 people.

People walk past debris after a fire broke out at a temple in Kollam in the southern state of Kerala, India. REUTERS/Sivaram V

Firecrackers and pyrotechnics materials stored in the temple in the southern state detonated on Sunday after thousands of devotees gathered to witness the pyrotechnic show to mark the start of the Hindu year.

At least 400 people were injured in the mishap.

The scale of the tragedy prompted demands that fireworks shows be banned at crowded places and temples across the state. The Kerala high court decided to deal with the case immediately.

“No fireworks shall be allowed in any territorial limits of the state of Kerala without a duly-issued license from the competent authority,” the judgment said.

The court also directed local authorities to enforce its order to ban the use of sound-generating fireworks between sunset and sunrise across places of worship.

Eighteen people were taken into custody, including employees of a fireworks manufacturer who was given the contract for running the show at the Puttingal Devi temple in the Kollam district.

The head of the manufacturing unit was injured was one of the 400 people who were in hospitals across the state with burns as well as injuries caused by flying concrete and debris.

At least 150 houses in the area of the temple were also said to have been badly damaged by the blast.

Kerala is studded with temples managed by rich and powerful trusts that often flout local regulations. Each year temples hold fireworks displays, often competing to stage the most spectacular ones, with judges who decide the winners.

The judges of the high court came down heavily on the police for their failure to implement the existing order that denies permission to temples to conduct the fireworks display in a competition manner.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi rushed to Kollam within a few hours with a team of doctors to meet the injured from one of the worst accidents at an Indian religious festival.

Kerala is in the midst of an election for a new state assembly but political parties have suspended campaigning as a mark of respect for the victims.

Reporting by D.Jose; Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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