The Sunday night inferno has brought out the fact that the Chandigarh administration and municipal corporation have not lear nt anything from the February 2013 mock drill conducted the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). A review meeting later had pointed out flaws in coordination, and lack of manpower and equipment. The deputy commissioner had even promised to plug the gaps soon.
Fifteen months later, the management of the Sector-17 disaster was marred by confusion, lack of coordination and lack of equipment. As a result, the MC fire department pushed illprepared and ill-equipped men to douse the fire, putting their lives at risk. Two of them died.
Showcasing a lot of courage, the firemen worked without personal safety equipment such as helmets, eye protection, ear protection, gloves, breathing apparatus and fire suits. They were forced to remove the debris with their bare hands. Talking of coordination, the firefighters didn’t even have walkie-talkies sets for communication.
As for lighting, the operation was initially carried out using headlights of a jeep. It was only around 10.30pm that some lights were installed.
Lax attitude of the police was evident too as they did not cordon off the area. As a result, a lot of people gathered in front of the building, thus hindering the work of the firemen.
When contacted, chief fire officer (CFO) Sunil Bhatia said they had all the equipment “but the firefighters were not wearing them due to the heat”. According to Bhatia, helmets and masks are used “only when one enters a building”.
LATE TO INFORM NDRF
The Chandigarh administration sought the help of the National Disaster Response Force six hours after the fire broke out. The NDRF team had to come from Bathinda, around 200km away.
Inspector Ompal Singh, who led the team of the NDRF, said they got the information around 10.30pm and reached around 2.30am. “We could have done more had we been intimated in time,” he told HT.