At least five people have died in a fire that broke out at the Serum Institute of India - the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.
Firefighters are tackling the blaze at the building under construction but the cause of the fire and extent of damage are not yet known, according to the fire office in Pune city in the southern Maharashtra state.
The vaccine company said the fire was restricted to a new facility it is constructing to increase production of Covid-19 vaccines and ensure it is better prepared for future pandemics.
Murlidhar Mohol, mayor of Pune city in southern Maharashtra state, said five bodies were found in the rubble after the flames were extinguished by firefighters.
Mr Mohol said the victims were probably construction workers.
The Serum Institute of India’s chief executive Adar Poonwala said he was “deeply saddened” by the loss of life.
He said there would be no reduction in vaccine manufacturing because the company has other available facilities.
Images showed huge plumes of smoke billowing from the building as firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze.
Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest maker of vaccines and has been contracted to manufacture a billion doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine. Its CEO, Adar Poonawalla, said in an interview with The Associated Press last month that it hopes to increase production capacity from 1.5 billion doses to 2.5 billion doses per year by the end of 2021. The new facility is key to the expansion. Of the more than 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses expected to be produced this year, rich countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have options to buy even more.
As a result, Serum Institute is likely to make most of the vaccines that will be used by developing nations.