Firemen's presence of mind averts bigger tragedy

Firemen's presence of mind averts bigger tragedy

Sumanahalli accident: Narrow roads hamper rescue work

The explosions, which saw huge cracks in the neighbouring houses and flung concrete blocks to as far as 50 feet, smashing into the door of a house opposite to the accident site, could have been worse had the fire and emergency department not identified and prevented more blasts.

“There could have been as many as six more blasts, but we controlled them. There were more cylinders in the marriage hall, which was a cause for concern throughout the operation,” a fireman said.

Residents faced anxious moments when seven fire personnel from the first team got trapped in one of the buildings and the second blast only added to their worries.
Srinivasa, one of the residents, said: “We did not know if the fire could be doused at all. We did not know whether more fire engines were coming; and these men trapped in the building collapse left us all worried as the flames were spreading.”

No pillars
“The builder of the convention hall did not even construct a beam or supporting pillar to hold the weight of the three-storey building,” Srinivasa complained. If the building had not collapsed, the entire operation would have been easily handled, he added.

Ranganna, an eye-witness, reasoned: “There was a sudden jolt in the area. I had come to visit my sister-in-law’s place when I heard the noise. There was a dye factory in the basement of the convention hall. That is the prime cause for the fire.”

Adding to the anxiety of the residents was the narrow road the buildings were located on, making it difficult for bringing in fire engines and ambulances.

Recovering from the shock, relatives of Sharadamma (seriously injured) and Kavita (dead) explained how both could have escaped the eventuality. Sharadamma, who sustained grievous injuries to her skull, could have escaped the mishap had she not delayed by five minutes. Similarly, Kavita  could have been saved if she had not fallen unconscious at her doorstep.

Lucky to survive
Speaking to Deccan Herald, Sharadamma’s nephew Narasimha­murthy, said:“Such is her fate that she was late in leaving home to pick her son up from school and was caught in the fire. We were lucky to pull her out and shift her to Victoria Hospital. But she should have left home by 1.30 pm. She couldn’t, and this happened.” Narasimhamurthy said he was working at a factory down the road when he heard a blast. And as he rushed to the spot, he found his aunt’s house on fire.

Lokesh, a relative of Kavita, said: “My second brother Gangadhar, his wife and son were lucky to escape; but Kavita, my eldest brother's daughter, fell unconsious at the doorstep and eventually lost her life.”

Adding to the problems faced by the rescue team on the narrow road were curious bystanders who caused a huge hurdle.

Occupying every possible “safe” place, including rooftops, there were at least 1,000 people at the spot.

Rescue mission
120 fire personnel conducted the rescue operation
 80-90 policemen were present to manage the crowd and the traffic
 Three ambulances were present at the spot to help rush the survivors to hospitals
 Three earthmovers and other sophisticated equipment, including hoses that cost Rs 25 lakh each, were employed in the rescue operation

LPG use to be regulated
Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Suneel Kumar said: “The department will write to the food and civil supplies department to regulate the use of LPG cylinders at marriage, convention and other halls and will also request them to make it mandatory to display the number of cylinders the halls have for safety reasons.”