Nothing has changed in 24 years at the 14-storeyed Gopala Tower, a commercial hub in central Delhi’s Rajendra Place. A fire on Monday afternoon, which gutted several offices, only proved that no lessons had been learnt from the 1983 fire, which killed four people.
No one died in Monday’s fire; four were injured. What the fire did expose was the lack of fire-safety measures in the building, perhaps like many others in Delhi.
People who were in the building when the fire broke out said neither the fire alarm nor the fire extinguishers worked. Security guards had no idea of contingency plans. “I was in the same building when the fire took place in 1983. Nothing much has changed since. Fire safety norms in the building are non-existent,” said Mahmood, a travel agent.
The police registered a case of negligence against the building management. No one was arrested. “We had no clue that there was fire... we did not hear any fire alarm,” said Giriraj Gupta, who has his office on the third floor. It took him one hour to get out of the building.
Raman Khatuwala, a travel agent, said: “The staircase was filled with smoke. We had no option but to go to the terrace.” About 1,600 people were in the building, which has 140 offices, when the fire broke out.