Negligence, lack of safety laws could have triggered museum blaze

  • Soumya Pillai, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 27, 2016 11:43 IST
Fire fighters try to extinguish at National Museum of Natural History at Mandi House in New Delhi , India, on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. (Arvind Yadav/ HT Photo)

Non-functional equipment, faulty building design, negligence in maintenance, and lack of strict safety laws, might have cost the country several years of research, in the fire which broke out at the National Museum of Natural History, on early Tuesday morning.

It is suspected that the fire was caused by a short circuit. There are allegations that the fire safety equipment was not functional. The exact reason, however, is being investigated.

Some employees of the museum said that there was constant pressure on them by the owners to vacate the building. They alleged that this was the reason why the fire safety equipment was not being maintained.

Media head of FICCI, Rajiv Tyagi, however said all the safety equipment was in place. He said that the compound has two water reservoirs of the capacity of 1.5 lakh litres and 50,000 litres which was used by the fire department for the rescue operation.

“FICCI can’t afford to be lax on security because we receive several dignitaries through the year. We have at least 20 fire hydrants inside and around the building. We also had electronic smoke detection systems in place on all the floors,” Tyagi said.

Fire officials and experts are not ruling out lapse in precautions.

“There were many problems in the design of the building which made the fire fighting tough. However, a major reason for such massive fires is lack of proper laws and the will to implement it,” said former chief of the Delhi Fire Services, AK Sharma, who visited the building after the fire.

The NMNH building, constructed in 1972, like several other buildings in central Delhi, does not come under the 1983 building bylaws. All the pre-1983 buildings were only later covered under the Delhi Fire Prevention and Fire Safety Act (1986), with only 12 safety requirements.

At present, all the newly constructed buildings are covered under the amendment, Delhi Fire Safety Rules of 2010, where 20 areas are required to be ticked before a clearance can be attained.

Over 80% of the buildings in the area have been constructed before ’83. No new buildings can be constructed around this space.

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