Even as Adar Poonawalla, the CEO and owner of Pune based Serum Institute of India (SII), on Thursday “reassured” all governments and the people that there would be no loss of Covishield vaccine production due to the massive fire that broke out in an under-construction building at the plant on Thursday afternoon, news has come in that at least five persons have died due to suffocation caused by the fire.

“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. Thank you very much @PuneCityPolice & Fire Department,” Adar Poonawalla had tweeted.

The news of the casualties was shared by Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope and Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol. According to the official statement, five persons, including one woman, had died in the fire and their bodies were found during the cooling operations while four persons were rescued from the fire which broke out on two upper floors of the SII building which was being readied for a BCG vaccine plant.

“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,” Adar Poonawalla tweeted.

Meanwhile, state Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray held a press conference while Poonawalla issued a personal statement of reassurance to allay nationwide concerns over the fate of the Covid-19 vaccines being manufactured by SII at the plant.

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Health Minister Tope, FDA Minister Rajendra Shingne, and others called up the SII top brass to take stock of the situation.

Though sabotage has been ruled out, in view of the national and global concerns, Pawar announced a thorough probe into the incident.

Police Commissioner Amitabh Gupta said, “The affected building was an upcoming SII facility for its BCG vaccines, scheduled to be operational in a month or so. The company has informed us that Covid-19 vaccine facility is at least one km away and there is no cause for worry.”

(With IANS inputs)