"We have just received some distressing updates"
A fire broke out at vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India (SII) in Pune on January 21, 2021.
The facility is producing the Covid-19 vaccine, Covishield, in partnership with Oxford-AstraZeneca.
Despite the huge blaze, production of the Coronavirus vaccine is said to be unaffected.
CEO Adar Poonawalla had tweeted: “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 @SerumInstIndia.”
Fire engines reached the spot and have been working to put out the blaze.
The Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine maker and the facility is spread over 100 acres in Pune.
Manjari, the complex where the fire broke out, is a few minutes away from where the Covid-19 vaccines are produced.
Approximately nine buildings are being constructed at the Manjari complex to deal with future pandemics and these are aimed at enhancing the SII’s manufacturing capability.
It is not known how the fire started but it is speculated that it could be linked to the ongoing construction activities.
Visuals showed thick smoke rising from the building and following the fire, it was revealed that five people died and nine were evacuated.
Mr Poonawalla added: “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.”
Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol said that the five people who died were working on the building floor.
The fire reportedly broke out on the fourth and fifth floors of the building. According to police, the blaze was brought under control in two hours.
Chief Fire Officer Prashant Ranpise said: “The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained.
“Furniture, wiring, cabins were gutted. No major machinery or instruments were stored on the floors where the fire broke out.”
A probe into the fire has now been ordered.
Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar said: “I have taken information from the Pune Municipal Corporation about the incident and instructed locals officials to carry out a detailed probe into the fire.”
The facility manufactures vaccines against various illnesses and diseases, which are exported to more than 170 countries.
In November 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the facility to review the development of the Covid-19 vaccine ahead of the rollout.
India has launched the world’s largest Covid-19 rollout after Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin were approved in early January 2021.