iconimg Sunday, August 30, 2015

Himabindu Reddy, Hindustan Times
Gurgaon, November 23, 2012
The recent blaze at Himalaya House in the neighbouring Capital has once again triggered waves of concern among residents regarding the blatant violation of fire safety norms in the city. With close lose to 1,000 residential and commercial towers dotting the city and an ill-equipped fire department in the name of firefighting force, the Millennium City is literally sitting on a time bomb.

The city has three fire stations with only 109 firefighters to tackle emergency situations. To add fuel to the fire, the department’s 25 fire tenders can reach a height of 42 metres only.

According to data released by the fire department, 23 persons were killed, 48 were injured and property worth Rs. 105 crore was damaged in several fire incidents in Gurgaon last year. Close to 900 calls of fire incidents were received in the year.

"A fire can occur anytime and anywhere. If something like this happens in this building, I don't think we will be able to save our lives," said Shalini Bedi, a resident of East-West Cooperative Group Housing Society in Sector 54. The society is among the eight group housing societies fined by a Gurgaon court for violating fire safety norms.

The society's secretary, Manoranjan Sharma, claims the building is well-equipped to fight a fire incident.

“We have seven water cylinders… we also have fire extinguishers and water hose pipes on every floor," he said.

But on visiting the society, Hindustan Times found the fire extinguishers have long passed their expiry date. The extinguishers were due for refill in February 2011 but haven't been refilled yet. According to firefighting norms, fire extinguishers have to be refilled at least once in two years.

The society comprising two buildings — a seven storey and a six storey one — is an eight-year-old construction. With 48 out of 52 flats occupied, over 30 senior citizens reside in this society.

Similarly, the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG) has issued notices to 59 high-rise societies for not abiding to fire safety norms.

The fire department has only two hydraulic platforms, five water bowzers, nine water tenders, six foam tenders, one jeep, two small water tenders and one rescue tender.

On top of that, the city also lacks sufficient number of burns wards even though Gurgaon is emerging as a popular healthcare hub. None of the multi-specialty hospitals, which are famous for their world-class service, have a burns ward. Only the Civil Hospital has a burns ward. Most burn cases are referred to Safdurjang Hospital in South Delhi.