Shopping malls, railway stations and markets that see thousands of footfalls every day are not equipped to tackle a major fire if there is one.
The Mumbai fire brigade said not a single high footfall building it inspected was following fire safety norms or had mandatory fire-fighting equipment. Of the 103 high-footfall buildings inspected, including shopping malls, markets, theatres and large, populated residential complexes, the fire department did not find even one building equipped to tackle a fire emergency.
While notices were sent to occupants and owners of 45 buildings, only 13 compliance reports came back. Interestingly, none of the defaulters have been prosecuted so far.
“Most of the buildings inspected had fire pumps, riser systems and detection systems that were not functioning. We found that even if fire safety equipment was installed, they had not been maintained,” said a fire official.
In June, a week after the fire at the Mantralaya on June 21, a panel constituted by HT conducted an audit of important government and crowded buildings. At one of the city’s popular shopping complexes, Heera Panna, which has 144 shops, the panel spotted only one fire extinguisher. The complex has seven exits, but to get to any exit door one has to cross the very narrow passageway, which increases the risk of a stampede.
The BMC now plans to intensify inspections in high-footfall areas from next year when the special regulatory cell of 100 personnel becomes functional.