Safety lapses in high rises under scrutiny

The Carlton Towers inferno had brought to light the ground reality of safety aspects in the city's burgeoning high rises two years ago. Post the incident, the city has witnessed at least five major fire tragedies.

However, the Karnataka State Fire and Emergency services continues to delve into minor procedures, instead of charting out an immediate inspection plan of the entire city.

The High Court had also reprimanded the fire department and urged for speeding up of the procedures three months ago.

The department currently has a fresh problem, which is hindering them from conducting the inspection increasing vacancies, no recruitment.

"The HC had sent us an order to inspect all high rise buildings that haven't taken fire safety into consideration.
We are yet to generate a list of buildings, which have not procured fire safety clearances and have flouted the rules.

However, we need additional staff to conduct an operation this massive. We have written to the government and are awaiting sanctions," said A R Infant, DGP, Fire Force.

However, when questioned about the increasing number of fire accidents at buildings, the DGP claimed that they would have to live with that risk.

"We have to live with that risk before we have a dedicated force to initiate quick action. We have made a start, though it was long overdue," said Infant.

No time to waste

According to sources within the fire department, almost 60 per cent buildings in the city are in violation of the Fire Safety audit prepared by the department.

"There are many popular buildings, both commercial and residential, run by popular builders, which have violated norms. The department is planning to prepare a list and will crackdown in phases.

A major problem before the department currently is the shortage of few trained professionals and we are focusing on preparing the forces to conduct sound inspections," said a senior official from the department.

Meanwhile, the HC also urged the department to inspect all buildings irrespective of when they were erected. The order stated that the department would have to generate a list and act on it immediately. 

"We have started co-coordinating with bodies such as BDA, BBMP and KIADB that issue licenses to buildings and will be inspecting old buildings," Infant added.

While the city continues to live with the risk, it remains to be seen if the Fire Safety department will implement inspections at the earliest, as per the HC order.

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