The 93 persons who suffocated to death in the blaze at Kolkata’s AMRI hospital on Friday may well have been saved if insensitive smokers, including doctors and staffers, had not turned off the smoke alarms before puffing away.
The police told HT that several smoke alarms, which were connected to fire-sprinkler devices, had been installed at AMRI hospital.
“But they did not go off on Friday as some doctors and hospital staffers, during their night duty on Thursday, turned off the main switch connecting all smoke alarms so that they could light up indoors,” said an investigating officer on condition of anonymity. The police are now trying to identify the doctors and staffers who habitually deactivated the alarms before smoking.
Investigators also said the blaze that engulfed the building started in the basement at 1.30am, and not at 3am as previously reported. “But the smoke was detected much later at 3am,” the officer said.
The police are also looking for two hospital workers who first detected the fire in the basement and tried to put it out by themselves."Two hospital staffers thought they had doused the fire on their own and did not raise any alarm. But one cannot put out this type of fire only by water. It requires foam or similar chemicals," the officer said.
“Moreover, prolonged supervision is also required to check whether the fire resurfaced. But these measures were not taken and the fire, sprang up like a demon within and hour and a half,” said the officer.
Another mistake was made on Thursday evening. Medicines and other inflammable substances that arrived at the hospital were heaped outside the basement, instead of being taken into a store.