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The fireworks, which were to be used to celebrate a local new year festival, exploded about 03:30 (22:15 GMT Saturday), local media say. A building at the temple then collapsed, causing many of the deaths.
More than 200 people were injured. Officials said permits for the display had been refused after safety fears. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is travelling to the scene, in the coastal town of Paravur. On Twitter, he said the incident was "heart-rending and shocking beyond words".