According to the Israeli Embassy in India, no Israelis are known to have been present in a massive fire than killed more than 100 people and wounded at least 350 others at the Puttingal Temple in Kollam early Sunday.
Israeli embassy staff are combing through the list of more than 100 Israelis in the city to make sure none were present at the time of the explosion and none were among the casualties.
Former Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, was present in the area for a working meeting with Israel’s Ambassador to India, Alon Ushpiz. The Israeli diplomats were located only eight kilometers (five miles) away at the time of the blast.
The two officials were informed by security personnel of the tragedy a few minutes after the blast. Misezhnikov told the Hebrew-language Ynet news site, “The attack demonstrates that terrorism crosses all borders.”
At the time of the explosion, there were 10,000 to 15,000 at a temple next to the grounds where a fireworks display was held allegedly despite denial of permission from the temple.
A separate stockpile of fireworks stored in preparation for the upcoming New Year festival of Vishu this Thursday, was ignited by a spark.
India Navy and Air Force deployed six helicopters and a Dornier aircraft to assist with evacuation of the wounded at the site.
Prime Minister Narendra Mondi headed to Kerala state, location of the temple, with a team of 15 specialists to help treat the injured. Union health Minister JP Nadda is also heading to the site of the tragedy.
“Fire at temple in Kollam is heart-rending and shocking beyond words. My thoughts are with families of the deceased and prayers with the injured,” PM Modi said in his tweets.
He asked the Kerala state government to “suspend protocol” for his visit as he heads to the site of the tragedy. The request allows Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and other ministers to forego a special reception ceremony upon his arrival at the airport.Hana Levi Julian