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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

Death Trap

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Jalandhar, April 17, 2012
First Published: 12:02 IST(17/4/2012) | Last Updated: 12:05 IST(17/4/2012)

Building owners need an annual safety certificate, but Sheetal Fibers did not have one. This flouting of safety norms may have caused the midnight death and destruction that struck Focal Point on the outskirts of the city, where a cluster of industries are located.

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Jalandhar fire safety officer Kashmir Singh said the factory had not obtained a safety certificate for several years.

"According to rules, the owner has to come to the department to apply for this certificate and the department issues a certificate after making sure the factory has proper safety arrangements," Kashmir said. "The owner of the building did not bother to apply for the mandatory certificate for safety norms."

Sheetal Fibers seemed to have violated building norms too.

According to the norms of the Punjab Small Industrial Export Corporation, under whose jurisdiction Focal Points (the area where the cluster of factories is located) fall, the height of any industrial building cannot exceed 38 feet.

But the Sheetal Fibers unit was at least 50 feet tall.

Weak foundation
A weak foundation may have caused the collapse of the four-storied building. Five years ago, the foundation for a single-storey structure was built but three more floors were added later, though its base was meant only for a single floor, building experts and officials in the district administration told Hindustan Times.

"The way the entire building collapsed indicates a weak foundation, and the additional three floors made it weaker," an expert said, on condition of anonymity, adding that even the on-going construction on the land near the collapsed building may have contributed to its weakening.
The adjoining building, which also belongs to the owner, Sheetal Vij, also stands at a risk, officials added.

Sources said a canal flowing behind the collapsed building may have added to its instability.

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