Kochi: A memorial service saved the lives of an autorickshaw driver and his wife, and washing laundry in the open saved the lives of their neighbours when firecrackers meant for a temple festival exploded and destroyed their houses at Choorakkad near Tripunithura on Monday.
Antony, who makes a living driving an autorickshaw, and his wife Beena were at their church for the memorial service of their relative. Their daughter, a college teacher, was at work. The blast rendered the couple’s two-storey house that filled a two-cent plot unlivable. All the doors and windows were shattered, and cracks ran over the walls and floors.
The couple said they returned from a pilgrimage to Velankanni Sunday night and planned to stay at home on Monday. "If not for the memorial service, we would have been in the house," said Antony. The couple built their house 13 years ago.
Their neighbour Kochuparambil Ravi, who used to work in a tea shop, and his wife Mani, had a narrower escape but their house went up in flames. “My wife was washing clothes behind the house and I was chatting with her when I heard a massive sound. I was almost thrown off the ground and a plastic sheet hit my head," said Anil. "Our house was destroyed," he said.
The explosion, which claimed two lives and injured many, happened when firecrackers meant for the festival at Puthiyakavu Temple were being shifted from a van to a warehouse around 10.50 am on Monday, February 12.
Vishnu (27), a native of Thiruvananthapuram, died in the morning and Divakaran (55) succumbed to burns at the Medical College Hospital at Kalamassery Monday evening.
Close to Antony's house lived Ravi's relative T D Mohanan and his family. Mohanan, his son Unni, and his 85-year-old mother Sarojini were inside their house when the explosion ripped through their locality.
Sarojini and Unni fell down and suffered injuries in the impact of the explosion. They have been hospitalised.
Sasidhara Panicker’s house on the other hand suffered severe damages in the explosion. A car parked on the porch also was damaged.
People in the damaged houses have been instructed to stay at the temporary facility set up at Pushapanjali Auditorium at Choorakkad. The office of the Tripunithura Agriculture Cooperative Society, a ration shop, and a youth club are among the buildings severely damaged.