Systems up in smoke

Nov 28, 2011, 11:32 IST | MiD DAY Editorial
It is fortunate that no lives were lost in the blaze that gutted large portions of Crawford Market and adjoining Manish Market, though there was huge damage to property. While some reports state that there was fire fighting equipment at Manish Market but people could not enter because of the smoke enveloping the area, the disaster must make us take a close look at markets everywhere in the city. Many of these are powder kegs waiting to explode. Like so many buildings in the city, markets of all varieties have no emergency response systems. Markets are places that are even more densely congested in a city where space is scarce. Shops are usually packed close together with shoppers and buyers moving through narrow lanes between shops. Exit routes are not demarcated clearly, and with a fire spreading panic everywhere, if the smoke does not suffocate you, a stampede certainly will. Several markets have shops with bamboos and wooden seating which are highly inflammable. Then, consider the cloth bales that are also stored in several of these stores and these become veritable tinderboxes. Many markets also have small main gates; it is difficult for fire tenders to reach inside. The access has been encroached on or shrunk many times because of illegal shops that have been allowed to mushroom.

Keeping crowds out is not an option and making access easier, through removing encroachments take time as the system has shown. For the short term though, shopkeepers could each keep firefighting equipment -- small equipment is available, which may not be able to douse huge blazes but could at least give them a few minutes to escape in case of a fire in their shops or even stop it from spreading. Each shop needs to invest in fire fighting equipment and owners take responsibility themselves. On the weekend it was goods that were lost, the next time it could be lives.

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