A large pharmaceutical production facility owned by the world's biggest coronavirus vaccine maker is being engulfed by fire on Thursday in the city of Pune in the western part of the country.
The plant for the Serum Institute of India (SII) was evacuated while a wing of it is still under construction. The new wing is said to be the site of the massive blaze, which is reportedly still underway as emergency crews respond.
"The Serum Institute is producing millions of doses of the Covishield coronavirus vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, for India and many other countries," according to AFP.
"Local TV channels showed thick clouds of grey smoke billowing from the sprawling site in Pune, in western India," the AFP report continues.
In particular the plant is expected to supply millions of doses of coronavirus vaccine for low- and middle-income communities in India and other regional countries.
Video: Fire breaks out at Covishield-maker Serum Institute's campus in Pune, five fire tenders pressed into service pic.twitter.com/9ru4r8AoLy— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) January 21, 2021
Though little details as to the extent of the fire or damage have been given, a Serum Institute source was cited in AFP as saying, "It is not going to affect production of the Covid-19 vaccine."
However, we wonder how this even possible to claim at this point, given the magnitude of the fire.
Fire breaks out at Terminal 1 of the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, which is world’s largest Vaccine producer and India's Pride.— Megh Updates 🚨 (@MeghUpdates) January 21, 2021
10 fire tenders on the spot. Reason Not Known as of Nowpic.twitter.com/QKaywknBOc
Serum Institute of India's CEO is also seeking to reassure the public:
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 (@adarpoonawalla) January 21, 2021
So far there's been no reports of casualties, according to local reports.
Judging by photographs and local news footage of a burning building which sits on about a 100 acre complex, the fire appears to be extensive, with large plumes of black smoke billowing high above the city.
Currently India is the second-most infected country in the world behind the United States, with over 10.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and among these over 150,000 deaths.