Thick black smoke was seen billowing from the boundary walls of the sandstone building of the Parliament complex on Sunday afternoon as a fire broke out in the air conditioning power plant around 2:21pm.
The blaze however did not affect the main Parliament complex and no injuries to anybody were reported.
Fire officials present on the spot said that the plant — located on the periphery of the parliament building—was undergoing maintenance work and the fire could have been triggered of by the welding of the AC wires.
“Prima facie it looks like a case of negligence as the prescribed safety norms for maintenance were not followed,” said AK Sharma, Delhi Fire Service chief.
“There are certain norms, guidelines one should follow while doing the maintenance work at vital installations such as the Parliament House. Clearly it was not followed. Because it was a Sunday and there were no employees, there was a delay in informing else, so the fire spread rapidly," Sharma added.
He also added that the fire engine which is always stationed at the Parliament was the first to reach the spot and subsequently 10 more tenders were sent to the spot to douse the fire.
Around 30 firemen marched in to rescue the handful of employees present inside the building. Officials said that the fire was controlled within 20 minutes. However, the damage could have been much more if it was a working day.
“We have initiated an inquiry into the matter. We will look into all aspects including the cause and circumstances of the fire and take action against those found responsible,” said MK Meena, joint commissioner of police (New Delhi).People who were present around the area when the fire broke out said that because only a few security personnel and maintenance staff are present on duty on Sunday, for a long time the fire went unnoticed. The maintenance workers present inside alerted the guards, one of whom called the fire tender stationed in the complex.
Thick black smoke was seen billowing above the red sandstone boundary wall of the 88-year-old Parliament complex as the flames raged just a few hundred metres away from the main building which suffered no damage. (PTI Photo)
President Pranab Mukherjee expressed serious concern over the massive fire, asking the authorities concerned to conduct an urgent inquiry into the cause of the fire.
The ministry of home affairs directed the Delhi Police to conduct a high-level probe into the cause of fire.
Police said that they have taken help from forensic experts to study the cause of fire.
Senior fire officers said that the delay in informing the fire control room caused the fire to spread, which later grew big. An officer who had inspected the spot said that it was unbelievable how ‘snapped AC wire could cause sparks resulting in a big fire.’
Another officer said that the sparks emitted from the welding machine, which touched the PVC material coating, could have helped the fire. The three men, who were present at the AC plant were also questioned by the police.
Police will also investigate the cause of an earlier fire at the Parliament complex. On Thursday there was another fire at the Parliament complex, reported from an air conditioning wiring at gate number 5. Sources said that the police hope to complete their inquiry within a month, after which it will be sent to the home ministry.