Andhra CID begins probe into secretariat fire

May 8th, 2009 - 6:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, May 8 (IANS) Amid a political row over the cause of a fire in the Andhra Pradesh state secretariat which destroyed some official records, the crime branch of the state police and forensic experts Friday launched a probe.
The fire that broke out Thursday on the second and third floors in the D-block of the secretariat, the seat of governance, destroyed the records of finance, information technology and forests departments.

Fire-fighting personnel had to break windows of the office complex to rescue several employees trapped inside.

The incident assumed political overtones after the opposition parties said they suspect foul play. Telugu Desam party and other opposition parties alleged that it was a deliberate attempt by the Congress government to destroy some ’sensitive’ files as it faced defeat in the assembly elections.

The counting of votes polled for Lok Sabha and state assembly elections last month will be taken up on May 16.

Rubbishing the opposition allegations, the government last night ordered a probe by the Crime Branch of the Crime Investigation Department (CB-CID).

A team of officials led by inspector general of police Punna Rao visited the building Friday and gathered clues. Dog squads were also pressed into service.

As employees were not allowed into the premises, they had to stand outside under the hot sun. The CID is likely to question some senior employees of various departments and also the people in charge of the server room as it is believed that sparks in the IT department’s servers led to the fire.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy claimed that all the official records were safe. He told reporters that the data in the computers destroyed in the fire was safe as its backup was stored at some other place.

He said it was an accident but the opposition parties were making baseless allegations. “It is stupidity of the worst order,” he said.

Meanwhile, finance minister K. Rosaiah told reporters at the secretariat that the opposition parties were carrying out a false propaganda against the government. He clarified that the finance department had not lost any important record in the mishap.

Chief Secretary Ramakanth Reddy said all the key files were safe. He said two teams were constituted to conduct a comprehensive probe. He said forensic experts were also conducting an inquiry.

Suresh, secretary, information technology, said the key information in the files kept in D-block was stored safely in another location. He said 200 computers out of 800 in the building were damaged in the fire.

Minister for forests S. Vijayramaraju said all the documents of his ministry were safe as only the servers of the department were destroyed in the fire.

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