Fire at Chembur hospital: Patients find safe haven in chapel

Fighting the panic and smoke that ensued after a fire broke out at Surana Sethia Hospital, patients found sanctuary at a chapel next door, where church members received close to 60 of them with open arms and doors

When a fire broke out at Chembur’s Surana Sethia Hospital yesterday, it was smoke and panic that posed the greatest danger to the patients within.

Members of the Christian Faith Centre opened the doors to the chapel and provided refuge to 60 patients as they waited for the fire to be doused
Members of the Christian Faith Centre opened the doors to the chapel and provided refuge to 60 patients as they waited for the fire to be doused

Call it providence then, that right next door was a chapel which received the patients with open arms and doors and provided safe refuge for two hours, as medical and fire officials prepared a plan of action to shift 48 patients to other hospitals.

48 patients were shifted out of Surana Sethia Hospital to Sai, Joy, Swastik, Shushrusha and Sion hospitals
48 patients were shifted out of Surana Sethia Hospital to Sai, Joy, Swastik, Shushrusha and Sion hospitals

The fire
Around 7 pm, the fire broke out on the fifth floor of the hospital, sparked by a short circuit in the ICCU ward. By 7.02 pm, the fire department received the information and rushed four fire engines, three tankers, two special fire appliances and two ambulances to the spot.

Due to heavy traffic on the Sion-Trombay road, it took them about twenty minutes to reach the spot, and another 40-odd minutes to douse the fire. Speaking to mid-day at 8.10 pm, by which time the fire had been dealt with, chief fire officer Prabhat Rahangdale said, “The fire broke out in the casualty ward on fifth floor of the ground-plus-seven-storey building.

Our officers moved four ICU patients to the terrace with the help of the hospital staff and one patient was shifted to Shushrusha Hospital in Dadar in the fire brigade ambulance,” said Rahangdale. He confirmed that it was not a major blaze, but the smoke had caused difficulty to the patients.

Sanctuary
Hospital staff and family members immediately started moving patients out, but had no idea when they realised that it was raining outside and there wasn’t enough space inside, recalled Tushar Gaikwad (27), whose father Laxman Gaikwad (50) was at the hospital for an angioplasty procedure.

“When we wheeled the first patient out on the road, we noticed that there was a church right next door. We asked a woman present there whether we could move the patients there and she immediately opened the doors,” said Tushar. In fact, the chapel, called the Christian Faith Centre, had already shut for the day just half an hour before.

But the church members were more than happy to help out during this time of need, said Cathy Mandebar, the priest’s daughter. “Patients had nowhere to go and they couldn’t be kept waiting outside because of the rain. Around 60 of them were brought in on wheelchairs and stretchers, and we made arrangements for all of them.

As the authorities made arrangements for them at other hospitals, they were shifted out of the church one by one, until the last patient was wheeled out around 9 pm,” Cathy added. Hospital authorities said none of the patients were inconvenienced during the incident and all of them had been brought out before they could suffer from smoke inhalation.

“All patients were shifted out safely and there has been no casualty amongst the staff, patients or relatives. There was a short circuit in the air conditioning of the ICU, which led to smoke. To avoid any untoward situation, we pro-actively shifted patients to other hospitals safely,” said Dr Prince Surana, hospital director.

Sources said that the fire was limited to the fifth floor but the staff had moved all patients in the fear that the blaze would spread. Fire officials said that if the fire had spread, it could have become a major disaster, as the hospital is located near a petrol pump.

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