Fire-hit Bangalore building had 1,000 litres of diesel (Lead)

February 24th, 2010 - 7:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Feb 24 (IANS) The charred Carlton Towers in Bangalore was sealed Wednesday, a day after a major fire broke out claiming nine lives and injuring about 60 people. Police and fire officials said it could have turned into a worse inferno as the terrace was stocked with 1,000 litres of diesel.
Storing inflammable material was not the only illegality in the seven-storey office and commercial complex on the busy old Airport Road in Bangalore’s central business district, they said a day after the worst disaster in the city in over two decades.

The building norms and fire safety measures had not been followed, said P.S. Sandhu, inspector general of police, fire and emergency services. “If the norms had been adhered to, many lives could been saved,” he told reporters.

Police booked cases of negligence and culpable homicide against the building’s owners.

It is still not clear where exactly the fire started in the nearly two-decade old building that has a popular restaurant on the ground floor.

Police and fire officials believe it could have started on the second floor following which the smoke spread to other floors, choking people as there was no proper ventilation.

If the fire had spread to the terrace, the diesel barrels would have burst resulting in heavy human casualties and massive damage to the building, officials said.

Diesel was stored to run the generator installed on the terrace in view of frequent power cuts in the city.

Several pillars supporting the building, vehicles parked in the narrow space in front and hoardings in the area all added to make the movement of fire tenders and fire personnel a difficult and time consuming exercise, Sandhu said.

The panic among people stuck in the building indicated they were not aware of the fire exits the building had, fire brigade officials said.

People from nearby buildings who rushed to help said they had to break the locks of the fire exits, which took some time. The building also did not have water sprinklers and there were no proper fire exit indicators, they said.

The fire started around 4 p.m. but by the time smoke engulfed the building where around 500 people were working at the time and people alerted the fire brigade, peak hour traffic had begun to choke the narrow road.

Compounding the problem were hundreds of onlookers.

The building has been sealed pending investigation into the cause of fire as also to ascertain whether building norms and fire safety measures were flouted.

“We have sealed the entire premises to investigate the cause of the fire and ascertain whether the seven-storey building had fire safety systems in place,” Bangalore Fire Brigade director D.B. Chengappa told IANS.

“The government has ordered an inquiry in the fire mishap and directed the Bangalore Bruhat Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to review fire safety measures in all high-rise buildings across the city,” Chengappa said.

Of the around 60 injured, seven are in the intensive care unit at the nearby Manipal Hospital and 15 are in the medical ward. The remaining were discharged.

“No further casualties. Seven of the critically injured are being treated in the ICU while 15 others are under observation in the medical ward. The rest have been sent home,” a hospital source said.

Of the nine people who died, six were men and three women.

Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa has announced Rs.200,000 as compensation to the families of the dead and Rs.50,000 to the injured. He said strict action would be taken against those guilty of violating safety norms.

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