Sunday, February 28, 2010


Fire fighters who braved the blaze at Carlton Towers on Tuesday were groping in the dark with no clue whatsoever of the exits points in the building. Reason:The BBMP took an entire day to locate the building plan!

The lack of coordination between government departments has once again come into the fore as investigations into the Carlton Towers fire tragedy continue, five days after the incident. An absolute lack of coordination between the BBMP and the fire fighters worsened the situation or at least, that is what the fire department believes.
The fire fighters who braved the flames on Tuesday did not even have a building plan to refer to during their rescue operation. The reason: The BBMP which is the custodian of all building plans could not find the plan until the next day. They found the building plan of Carlton Towers the next day in the afternoon when they had to submit a report to Commissioner Bharat Lal Meena.
“I do not want to blame another Government department. But it is also true that we would have been able to plan a more organised rescue effort if we had been able to access an accurate building plan,” said Jija Hari Singh, DG, Fire Safety and Emergency Services.
On Tuesday, when the fire personnel reached Carlton Towers, they had to rescue people based on the feel of the building. “We had no idea about the building structure and its emergency exits. But we decided to go ahead and start the rescue operation. Had we waited any longer, more lives would have been lost,” said the official.
Even when the tragedy unfolded, except for the health officials of the East Zone, the BBMP engineering officials were conspicuous by their absence. Bharat Lal Meena visited the site at around 9.30 pm in the night.
Jija Hari Singh also said that there were a lot of deviations in Carlton Towers from the approved plan. “There were a lot of changes in the building which made our rescue operation very difficult,” she said.
But she also added that once the fire personnel reached the spot, there were no more deaths.”Hundreds of lives were saved after we reached the spot,” she said.
However, the official says that this tragedy is an eye opener. “We have met with the BBMP officials and asked them to keep updated building plans of major multi-storied buildings in the city and to also give us copies of the same. This will save time and make it easier for us to function during an emergency,” she said. BBMP officials remained unavailable for comment.
The Joint Director, Fire Safety and Emergency Services, D B Chengappa, submitted an interim report on the Carlton Towers tragedy on Friday.The report places the blame squarely on the change of the building structure that effectively sealed emergency exits. Here are the other highlights of the report.

• The ground floor which houses a number of eateries and shops is shown as open space in the building plan.This open space was sealed off by commercial establishments so as not to inconvenience their patrons.Therefore, the emergency exits leading to the ground floor from the other levels were blocked.The scene was much worse in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th floors where exits had illegal additions

• The fire safety measures in the building, including sprinklers and extinguishers, smoke detectors, fire alarms and the public attention system were not working

• The two fire staircases were barred with iron doors and locked because the owners of the building did not want to splurge on a couple of extra security guards

• The passage way connecting the A wing (where the fire broke out) to the B wing was also locked

• The fire department had given a NOC to the building in 1999 after inspection but did not have powers to reinspect the building.That authority lies with the BBMP. In the last 11 years, there have been checks done which have pointed to a systematic failure of the safety system in place at Carlton

Rajeev Chandrashekar, independent Member of Parliament, has written to Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa about the safety of multi-storied buildings in the city. The MP has asked the government to review the readiness of the fire department and the feasibility of the technology being used. He has also addressed the issue of crowd management to allow people in an emergency maximum access to emergency services.


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