If the staff at the Advanced Medicare Research Institute (AMRI), Dhakuria, had been less concerned about damaging the Rs 3-lakh worth consignment of cotton and medicines, the tragedy of December 8 could have been averted, investigations by Kolkata police have revealed.
“We have come to know that the fire broke out in the basement of AMRI. But the staff did not use water to douse it because they wanted to save the medicines and other material,” an investigating officer of the Kolkata Police detective department told HT.
The fire, which reportedly broke out around 1.30am, was confined to the basement, but the thick black smoke went up through the AC ducts and engulfed all seven floors of the hospital. Firemen, who reached at 4.30am, broke through the double-paned glass façade of the hospital and rescued a few lucky survivors. The tragedy claimed 91 lives, most of the casualties were deaths due to asphyxiation.
According to Bibhas Guha, deputy director, West Bengal fire services, when materials such as cottonwool, paper, cloth, jute or plastic catch fire, applying foam is no good.
“Only water is necessary to douse the fire.”
On the night before the fire, a consignment of medicines had arrived at the hospital. The medicine store was located at the basement, but instead of putting away the consignment inside the store, it was dumped outside the store in the basement. Police said AMRI authorities did not clear the basement though they had promised to do so in an affidavit before the fire brigade. A section of hospital staff were apprehensive that their wrongdoings may be exposed if they called the fire brigade.
“The dilemma, that resulted in a delay of about 90 minutes, proved expensive,” said an officer. The investigators have got hold of the roster, which reveals the name of staff and security persons on duty at the time of the accident.