Uddhav Thackeray (L), the chief minister of Maharashtra state, speaks as the Serum Institute of Indias CEO Adar Poonawalla watches during a press conference in Pune on January 22, 2021.
Uddhav Thackeray (L), the chief minister of Maharashtra state, speaks as the Serum Institute of Indias CEO Adar Poonawalla watches during a press conference in Pune on January 22, 2021.
AFP Photo

Mumbai: A day after a fire broke out in an under-construction building at the Serum India of Institute (SII), killing five people, CEO Adar Poonawalla has estimated the resultant financial loss to be Rs 1,000 crore but has clarified that there was no impact on the supply of the anti-coronavirus vaccine, Covishield, and its production would not be affected. However, other facilities involved in the production of rotavirus and BCG vaccines were damaged.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who visited the SII facility on Friday and also met company Chairman Cyrus Poonawalla and his son Adar, said investigation would reveal whether it was an accident or sabotage.

''It is not correct to say anything now, as investigation is underway. Only when the probe is complete, will we know whether it was an accident or sabotage," he noted. The fire damaged the top two floors of the building located in the 'SEZ 3' area of the premises of the institute.

Thackeray, who was accompanied by Labour Minister Dilip Walse-Patil, Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray and the deputy chairman of the legislative council, Neelam Gorhe, said the SII had already taken responsibility for the five construction workers who perished in the fire but assured the government would chip in, if any help were needed. "The SII has already taken responsibility for the five labourers, including three migrants who were killed in the blaze, by giving Rs 25 lakh, plus other benefits as per norms, to each of their kin.

Thackeray further stated that the SII chairman and CEO have repeatedly said that there would be no impact on the Covishield vaccine production and its rollout would continue unhindered.

Already the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) and the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) have launched a probe, after it was announced by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Thursday evening. Police have registered an accidental death and burning incident case with the Hadapsar police station, said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 5) Namrata Patil.

Devendra Potphode, Chief Fire Officer, PMRDA, said "We are trying to ascertain the cause of the fire, as well as how it spread. Several types of equipment were damaged in the blaze. On the basis of the findings from all the agencies, a conclusion will be reached on how the fire started."

A team of forensic experts reached the spot and conducted their probe.

"We were very lucky that the incident took place in a building where the Covid-19 vaccine was not being stored. It has happened where other vaccines are being produced and we will make up for that production," said Poonawalla. He added that the facility meant for the rotavirus and BCG vaccines had suffered major damages in the fire.

"We will try and make up the supply gap in our other facilities. Mainly, the loss is financial and there will not be any loss in terms of supplies," the SII CEO said. This was a new building where additional production capacity was being put in place, he added.

The SII issued a statement saying, “The fire broke in an under-installation building of the SII plant at Manjari." Further, the statement said that the institute had suffered financial losses due to the fire and the incident would impact the production of BCG and rotavirus vaccines in the future.

Meanwhile, NCP President Sharad Pawar said the fire was an "accident and there is absolutely no doubt about the integrity of scientists working with the SII.’’ He was responding to a question about allegations of sabotage behind the fire on Thursday.

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