PALLIPAT, India (CNN) -- A raging blaze at a wholesale fireworks store killed at least 32 people in southern India, police said Saturday.
Some of the dead included customers who had arrived at the shop ahead of Diwali, a major Hindu festival observed with lights and fireworks.
S. Radhakrishnan, a Tamil Nadu state police official, said three people were arrested in connection with the Friday evening fire, including the owner of the building and the owner of the fireworks store in the town of Pallipat, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Chennai.
Radhakrishnan said the fireworks store had been denied a government license to operate and was doing business illegally. The owner's father died recently and the shop had been closed for a few days, he said. A rush of customers were at the store when it re-opened just before Diwali.
Police have not determined the cause of the fire but they suspect an electrical short-circuit may have set off firecrackers inside the warehouse, which triggered the blaze. See a report on the fire »
The store was crowded and there was only one exit. People panicked, not knowing how to escape the flames, Radhakrishnan said.
Rescue workers pulled charred remains from the gutted building.
Fireworks suppliers in India are notorious for flouting safety regulations and such tragedies have become commonplace.
CNN's Harmeet Shah Singh in New Delhi, India, and sister network CNN-IBN's Meenakshi Mahadevan in Pallipat, India, contributed to this report
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