Marol fire: Hospital ignored three fires earlier, say protesting employees

Updated: Dec 19, 2018, 16:07 IST | Chetna Yerunkar | Mumbai

Angry ESIC hospital staff protest against authorities on Tuesday; fire officials say fire resistant doors that were to be installed were still lying in the corridors, causing smoke to spread rapidly

The condition of the hospital a day after the fire. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
The condition of the hospital a day after the fire. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

Had the authorities taken three fire incidents in the Employees State Insurance Corporation's (ESIC) hospital at Andheri East in the past year seriously, the eight people who died in the blaze there on Monday would still be alive. Staff, who protested against the hospital authorities on Tuesday, claimed that they did not have proper facilities and the building was in bad shape.

The employees of the hospital alleged that there were no safety precautions in place, even though the building was under repairs for over 10 years. They stood in front of the hospital with placards registering their anger against its administration. The employees also protested against the contractor. Vishal Kumar, a laboratory technician said, "I am seeing repairs being done here for the past 10 years and there is no change. Slab collapses or fire incidents continue. The most recent one was about a month or two back, in the kitchen on the ground floor. We had complained to the administration to do something about this, and had the fire safety precautions been taken many lives might have been saved." Shelma Xavier, another employee said, "There is no respite from the constant noise and dust. Even basic facilities such as clean washrooms were not provided. We have complained many times to the administration but there was no positive response. The contractor should be taken to task and questioned about the delay in work."

Contractor to blame?
A senior government officer said, "We kept a continuous check on the state of the building. Some issues with the contractor were resolved and he was to complete the work, or else we would take action against him. But the fire broke out and now we will decide the next course of action according to orders from the authorities." The hospital authorities, however, rubbished the employees' claims. Assistant Director Sarika Kakkad said, "None of the claims are true and the hospital was functioning well as everything was in order."

CM announces Rs 10 lakh compensation
The death toll in the ESIC Hospital fire rose to eight on Tuesday. Till Monday midnight, 177 people were rescued from the hospital. According to preliminary reports the fire broke out on the ground floor and smoke travelled all the way to the third and fourth floors through the open shafts. Shockingly, fire resistant doors that were to be installed were still lying in the corridors, said fire officials. The stairs were wide open and smoke rose rapidly, completely engulfing the entire hospital. A senior civic official said, "The fire officers faced a tough time during fire fighting operations with smoke travelling rapidly through the open ducts."

Deputy Chief Fire Officer M Ogale, said, "We are collecting all the details and accordingly we will decide our further course of action." Cooper Hospital Dean Ganesh Shinde, where 22 patients are admitted, said, "Most of the patients faced suffocation, and some also faced multiple internal injuries. There are two in our hospital who are on ventilator." Labour minister Santoshkumar Gangwar said a thorough probe would be carried out against the contractor as the work had been going on for 10 years. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, too, has ordered an inquiry and announced Rs 10 lakh compensation for the families of the deceased.

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