6 days later, more questions than answers

Jun 27, 2012, 06:54 IST | Ravikiran Deshmukh

Ministers targeted the fire fighting operations, attributing the disaster to the fire team's sluggish pace and poor management skills

It’s been six days since the fire, and it seems that more and more questions are cropping up, instead of the answers sought by the populace. Yesterday, officials working for the Home, Revenue and Urban departments raised questions about the slipshod manner in which decisions were taken during the critical hours on Thursday. 

Speaking with media persons, PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal was keen to express his dissatisfaction with the ill-equipped fire department at Mantralaya. He said that the fire team consists of only eight people, of which only two were present during the critical hour. He also revealed that the official who heads the team was away at his native place to tend to his ailing father. He insisted that these factors contributed to the short-staffed team’s failure to respond to the disaster with alacrity. The state headquarter didn’t even have a dedicated fire engine, he rued.

Other Mantralaya employees have also been questioning the way in which the firefighting operation was carried out. They alleged that the BMC fire team failed to respond in an organised manner to the situation. They claimed that the BMC engines took a long time to begin their operations – so much so that by the time they managed to spray their canons on west side of the fourth floor where the fire broke out, the flames had already spread to the fifth floor, both east and west wings having caught fire.

“We are wondering why the canons were not put to use when the fire began spreading,” whispered an official from the urban development department. Questions were also asked about the inability of the water jets sprayed by the engines to reach the sixth floor. An official who watched the entire operation revealed that the water canon sent by Bharat Petroleum, which came late, was far more effective than the state owned engines. According to reports, engines from the Mira-Bhayander municipal corporation were also more sophisticated than the BMC engines, equipped with more power and mechanism to deal with fire in a highrise. While the state owned water canons could not reach the sixth floor, no engine managed to reach the topmost seventh floor.

Many officials asked how the fire could spread across the fifth floor, having started out on the west wing of the fourth floor. They asked how the fire spread to the upper part of the building, while the urban development department on the fourth floor remained intact. Questions were also asked as to how the flames reached the seventh floor, as the staircase, which connects it to the sixth floor, has nothing inflammable in it. 

MiD DAY’s report leads to hectic remedy
Following MiD DAY’s report on the apathy of the relevant departments about the upkeep of servers in the building, rounds of inspection were conducted at Mantralaya yesterday (‘Ill-maintained server cables gnawed by mice’).

Soon after day began at Mantralaya, a group of officials visited the ground floor server installed at the DGIPR’s office. Later, two other teams visited the same and discussed the maintenance of the sever, as well as back up batteries and wires, sources said.

A policy decision is expected to be announced soon to govern the maintenance of computers and local area network (LAN), said an officer, requesting anonymity.  

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