AC bus catches fire, passengers safe | kolkata | Hindustan Times
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AC bus catches fire, passengers safe

An AC bus plying on the Howrah-Barasat route caught fire at around 9 am on Monday, filling the interiors with thick, black smoke and setting off a manic frenzy and panic among the passengers on board.

kolkata Updated: Sep 04, 2012 13:56 IST
HT Correspondent

An AC bus plying on the Howrah-Barasat route caught fire at around 9 am on Monday, filling the interiors with thick, black smoke and setting off a manic frenzy and panic among the passengers on board.

With the windows all shut and the AC going at full blast, the fire soon set off a torrent of smoke, turning the entire vehicle into a veritable gas chamber. However, with the blaze spotted in time, the bus was stopped on the second Hooghly bridge, so all passengers could get off safely. The driver reportedly moved in to douse the flames with the fire extinguisher on board the vehicle, but couldn’t rein in the leaping flames.

The fire caught the rear tyre and consumed the entire vehicle within minutes. However, with the blaze spotted early enough, the passengers managed to scramble to safety. The three fire tenders, which moved in shortly after, doused the flames after a strenuous hour-long effort.

Officials of the fire services department said that the fire and noxious fumes, if allowed to drift, could have choked many inside the enclosed space in a manner witnessed during the devastating AMRI blaze back on December 9.

A blaze in the basement of the Dhakuria facility sent up killer fumes through the AC ducts, choking 91 patients housed in the enclosed hospital space, to death.

With the bus being on its maiden run on city streets, poor maintenance, which has been ailing the state transport fleet, couldn’t have caused the fire.

“Though AC buses have fire extinguishers on board, the same was of little use today as the fire, fed on by strong winds on second Hooghly Bridge, spread fast. Thankfully, another bus driver behind me spotted smoke coming out of the engine and alerted me. Or else the fallout could have been more tragic,” Sajal Manna, who was at the wheel of the illfated vehicle, told HT.

“Thankfully, the fire originated in the exterior of the bus. With the windows shut in AC buses, not much could have been done had the fire caught the interiors of the vehicle. Such buses have an emergency exit door in the rear. But given the way the fire spread, I doubt if he would have been able to save any lives had he not been alerted on time,” Tapan Ghosh, deputy director, fire services department, told HT.

“A short circuit would have likely caused the fire. It is difficult for us to spot fires and we do rely on passengers to alert us in the event of one. But once drawn to a fire, it is incumbent on us to get the passengers out safe,” Manna said.

AC buses could turn into a veritable trap in the event of a fire, as the windows are hard to break. Even repeated blows could only result in a crack or two, but won’t bring smash the windows.

“This incident has shown that these buses, though comfortable, aren’t entirely safe for passengers,” Abhishek Nath, a final year MCA student, told HT.