Blast in Kochi: Police probing terror angle; state on high alert

Police have started preliminary investigation into the incident. Photo: Manorama

Kochi: The state police chief sounded high alert across Kerala after a woman was killed and over 30 people were injured in blasts at a convention centre at Kalamassery in Kochi.

Multiple blasts rocked the Zamra International Convention & Exhibition Centre during a prayer meeting of the Jehova's witnesses on Sunday. Though police have not confirmed it, sources said they are probing a terror angle. A total of 36 people including children were injured in the blasts and the stampede-like situation when people rushed out of the centre. 

Ernakulam district collector N S K Umesh confirmed that a total of 36 people were injured in the blast and he visited each one at Govt.Medical College. Among the injured, two including a child suffered 50 percent above burns. They will be shifted to Aster Medicity hospital, he told media.

According to reports, the state anti-terrorist squad will reach the crime scene soon. Kochi Unit of the National Investigation Agency has also started collecting information about the incident. 

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan condemned the incident and said top police officials, including the State Police Chief, would reach Kochi soon. He added that two people were in critical condition. The CM pointed out that a detailed investigation should be conducted to ascertain the cause of the blast. The Fire force, forensic team, finger team experts are collecting samples from the spot to identify the chemical used for the blast.

Over 30 people were injured in the blast. Photo: Special Arrangement

Sources close to the Union home ministry hinted that action would be taken after receiving a preliminary investigation report from Kerala Police. 

State Industries Minister P Rajeev said the blast site has been cordoned off and police and fire rescue have been pressed into service. A few of the injured have suffered serious burns, he said.

The minister added that all medical aid and facilities are available at the Kalamassery Medical College and if required, the injured can be shifted to other hospitals. Kerala Health Minister Veena George urged government healthcare professionals to report for duty in the wake of the blast.

A person present at the centre said there were over 2,000 people inside the hall when the incident occurred. According to Police, a call was received around 9 am about the blast, seeking police assistance.

Visuals of the incident on TV channels showed fire rescue and police personnel in large numbers evacuating people from the site. Disturbing visuals of the blast inside the convention centre showed multiple fires inside the hall as people and children were heard screaming in fear. The video also showed some people trying to quell the fires as the hall was littered with scattered and damaged chairs. Hundreds of people were seen outside the convention centre post the explosion.

(With PTI inputs)

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