At least five people are dead
At least five people are dead after a large fire broke out at the site of the world’s largest vaccine producer located in western India Thursday.
Images from Reuters partner ANI showed black smoke coming from a building which was still under construction at the Serum Institute of India’s facilities in the city of Pune. The fire was brought under control, but officials later announced five people had died.
“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,” Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, tweeted. “We are deeply saddened and offer our deepest condolences to the family members of the departed.”
Murlidhar Mohol, mayor of Pune city in southern Maharashtra state, said the bodies found in the rubble after the fire was extinguished were likely construction workers, according to The Associated Press. The cause of the fire is unclear at this time.
Serum Institute of India has been contracted to produce about 50 million doses a month of vaccine developed by Oxford University and Astrazeneca at other facilities on the company’s complex. In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Poonawalla said he’s aiming to increase production from 1.5 billion doses to 2.5 billion annually by the end of 2021. The facility under construction was part of the expansion, but Poonawalla said the fire will not affect production of the vaccine, known locally as Covishield.
“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,” he tweeted.
India recently approved the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine for emergency use earlier this month along with another developed in the country. Approval for the AstraZeneca shot in the U.S. appears to be imminent.