Museum of Natural History gutted

Museum of Natural History gutted

Museum of Natural History gutted
A massive fire gutted the National Museum of Natural History situated in the 6-storey Ficci building here in the early hours of Tuesday.

The fire destroyed valuable specimens, including a 160 million-year-old fossil of an Indian Sauropod Dinosaur.

Thirty-five fire tenders took more than 5 hours to douse the fire which started on the sixth floor and soon spread down to the entire building, which is owned by the business chamber Ficci in central Delhi’s Mandi House area.

The museum’s galleries, library and offices are located across all six floors of the building, which also houses the Ficci auditorium. The museum functions under Union Environment Ministry. Five firefighters were injured while trying to tackle the blaze.

Delhi Fire Services officials said the fire fighting system in the building was ineffective. The fire, which started at 1.45 am on Tuesday, was first noticed by the security guards at the building, and a guard of the adjoining Ficci federation building called the fire station at 1.47 am.

“It took 20 minutes for the first fire tender to reach the spot. Once they arrived, we security guards also helped them in their firefighting operation,” said Kanhaiyya, the guard who made the first call.

Initially, five fire tenders were sent. But seeing the scale of the blaze, 6 more tenders were pressed into service. Soon the numbers rose to 35, said fire department officials.

The 5 fire service personnel suffered from asphyxiation. “They were injured due to inhaling noxious smoke. They were taken out from the building and were admitted to a hospital. They were discharged after a few hours,” said Atul Garg, Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Delhi Fire Services.

Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar reached the spot at 8.30 am. He described the fire as “unfortunate” and told mediapersons that a fire safety audit of all museums under his ministry would be undertaken soon.

“This is unfortunate. Museum of Natural History is a national heritage...This is a real loss. We will assess the loss and see how we can restore it and how the recovery plan can be made. There are plans to move to another area to create a new museum,” Javadekar said.

The project of constructing a new museum will be done at an estimated cost of Rs 225 crore and while the conceptual work is in progress, a committee has also been formed for the purpose, a statement by his Ministry said. Delhi’s Deputy Chief Fire officer Rajesh Panwar said, “The fire safety systems were there but they were not functioning at the time when we tried to operate them.

Had they been working, the fire would have been contained sooner.” Museum officials termed it as an irreparable loss as some of the flora and fauna specimens exhibited there were rare. The museum housed many taxidermied animals and birds.

“It had the 160-million-year old fossil bone of the Indian Sauropod (a type of dinosaur) and its eggs, which were excavated from Damodar Valley in Gujarat. The 4-decade old museum was the only one in the world to have a specimen of cup sponge (Cliona patera), an extinct species found in Pacific Ocean,” said Vikas Rana, education assistant at the museum.
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