Revealing the shoddy state of affairs at the Lotus Business Park building, which caught fire on July 18, the Amboli police have registered an FIR against the society members of the building for the fire that killed one fireman.
According to the FIR, the manual and automatic fire alarm systems at the Lotus Business Park were not working. There was no generator to operate the fire lift and the water pump was not accessible. These are only some of the violations. File pic
Taking serious cognisance of the incident, police said they would later register cases against the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Fire Brigade as well, for not keeping a check on the violation of regulations in the building.
The case was registered on Tuesday night, and it has been found that the building did have equipment to avert fire, but that none was in working condition. Police have identified 21 instances in which rules were merrily ignored and broken — these divided into active and passive.
These include non-functional systems as vital as the fire board panel, water pump for extinguishing fire, fire alarm systems, etc. (See box) The case was registered against members because the agreement and the documentation of the building had been transferred in the society’s name.
Senior Police Inspector Ramesh Khadtare of Amboli police station said, “We have registered a case under section 304A (causing death by negligence), 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the IPC, read with sections 3(3) of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention And Life Safety Measures Act, 2006 and 4(2) of the rules under the said act, and Section 36 of the act, against the owner, developers, occupiers, secretary, chairman, manager and others. The complainant in the case is the Divisional Fire Officer Yashwant Jadhav.”
One fireman Nitin Ivalekar had lost his life and 20 others were injured during dousing operations. In many places, police found unlawful modifications to the inner parts of the building, for which they ultimately pinned the blame on the BMC.
Said the police, “There were several violations in the building and rules were severely neglected. The occupants might have built unauthorised structures etc. However, it is the Fire and BMC officials who give permission.
Therefore, they are mainly responsible for negligence, as they should have not given the go-ahead, and taken strict action. If the equipment was not working, why was action not taken? Why didn’t the BMC and Fire department follow up with the society regularly?”
They added that the investigation would be lengthy as several rules and guidelines have to be followed. “BMC and Fire officials will be under the scanner. They could’ve averted the fire as they knew what measures to take before such an incident even occurred,” a police officer explained.
Speaking to mid-day, Amboli Police Inspector Shankar Yeram, the investigating officer, said, “The exact cause of the fire is not known till now. However, we suspect short circuit to be the reason.
People did not notice the fire on the 21st floor and did not take action or, even if they tried, they did not have the tools to do so. On that day, the wind was blowing and the fire spread due to this. Fire officials are investigating the exact cause,” Yeram added.
The vital violations
The following are crucial lapses, indicative of the serious lack of preparedness, observed in the society and highlighted in the FIR:
Fire panel board was not working. The panel board indicates the exact location of the fire, indicated on the display with a LED light. One person is supposed to continuously monitor it.
>> Diesel generator was not working. During a fire, electricity supply is cut off, and in order to operate fire lift and other equipment, a generator provides power
>> On 20th floor, the booster water pump for extinguishing the fire could not be seen and was placed in a location that could not be reached.
>> Wet riser cooling down system was not working. This system is triggered by a fire to release a shower of water to extinguished the flames
>> Electric cable wire duct at every floor was closed, and hence, electricity supply couldn’t be switched off
>> Wet riser bulbs were defunct
>> The automatic ‘Exit’ electric signboard was not working.
>> Fire lift was not working
>> Automatic fire alarm was not functional; it didn’t go off ring when the fire started
>> The manual fire alarm system was also not in working condition
>> Several fire resistant doors didn’t comply with standards and were made without following rules. The fire exit door also did not conform to proper quality standards
>> On several floors, unauthorised or illegal construction was done.
>> No arrangements for a proper ventilation system
>> No precautions taken to avoid death due to fire
>> The fire water pipeline (red-coloured pipe) was not of proper quality (didn’t follow specifications) because of which firemen had difficulty in pumping water to the higher floors. It even caused a delay.