Major fire guts AIIMS virology unit, patients shifted, rescued
A major fire broke out on the second floor of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Saturday evening. Fire officials reported that the blaze might have originated in the hospital’s teaching block.
No casualties were reported from the hospital. “There has been no loss or damage to life,” AIIMS said in a statement.
The fire broke out on the second floor due to an apparent short-circuit. It later spread to the fifth floor, where an AC compressor exploded.
Even though the area from where the fire started is essentially a non-patient area, the hospital authorities started patient evacuation in certain nearby wards because of the thick smoke that had started to fill in those wards and corridors.
A senior police officer present on the spot said the fire was limited to three-four rooms on the fifth floor. “It won’t get worse from here. Almost all the rooms in the affected part of the building have been hit,” he said. NDRF teams are being pressed into service, the officer said.
Fire officials said firefighting might continue till early morning. A skylift was deployed to reach the terrace of the building.
“As a precautionary measure, the patients admitted in adjoining AB wing have been shifted out to the other wings of the hospital temporarily,” the hospital statement further read.
The fire started at around 5pm allegedly due to a short-circuit, which, however, was not confirmed by hospital authorities. According to sources, the fire spread to the virology unit of the microbiology department, which could mean several biological samples meant for testing or analysis were destroyed.
The patients were shifted from the AB wards in the main building to the hospital’s eye centre and new private wards, which are on the other side.
“We moved serious patients to the casualty of the eye department on stretchers and wheelchairs as per requirement. Those who could walk were asked to climb down and many local patients who were being prepped for surgery or those near recovery were asked to go back to their homes and come back the next day,” said a doctor in the hospital, requesting anonymity.
The entire staff of the hospital, including senior doctors, resident doctors, nurses, technicians etc., was busy in shifting patients to safety.
Since way to certain departments such as the emergency department was cordoned off and people not allowed to come near the area for safety reasons, there was utter confusion among attendants, who were not able to contact each other.
“They have closed entry to the emergency department and I can’t reach my aunt who I had left in the emergency with my uncle. The phone also doesn’t connect, so I don’t know where they are,” said Lila, who has come to get her uncle treated from Nepal.
Heena, who was sitting outside the medical superintendent office building, said, “I was in the ward when the guard suddenly asked us to evacuate the floor because of the fire. He said at least those who can walk without support should move out. My mother-in law is supposed to undergo a surgery for a lesion but she can walk and sit properly. So we both came down,” said Heena.
“I didn’t know what had happened. The patient on the neighbouring bed had got discharged yesterday and we had made friends with him. He called to ask if we were fine. That’s when we got to know there has been a fire in the hospital,” she added.
The hospital has created a control room — 011 26593308 — for people seeking information regarding patients admitted in the AB wing, who were evacuated.
The fire department said that when they received a call about the blaze at 4.55pm, they initially sent a dozen fire tenders. “It turned out to be a major fire. We sent a total of 34 fire tenders and put more than 150 fire fighters on the job,” said Atul Garg, chief fire officer (Delhi Fire Services).
According to Vipin Kental, director of Delhi Fire Services, the blaze initially began on the second floor of the building, but the ventilation shafts allowed the flames and smoke to travel upwards. By 8.30pm, the fifth floor of the building was burning and the fire fighters were finding it difficult to access the rear of the building.
“Some construction work is going on in that building because of which there are temporary structures set up behind it. The temporary structures and a generator left no space for our fire tenders to reach the spot from where accessing the rear end of the building would have been possible,” said Kental.
“We were fighting the fire from inside the building to access the rear. Our hydraulic lifts helped us enter the building from the front part,” said Kental.
Around 6.30pm, the fire fighters had thought that they had controlled the blaze and that only cooling operations were left. “But sometime later we realized that the flames had flared up again,” said Kental.
Late at night, AIIMS in another statement said that the fire had been put off completely. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan was personally monitoring the efforts on-site.
The officer said that the gastroenterology section of the hospital is located in the same building, albeit further away from the burning point. “There were around 30 patients in that department, including some on ventilators. We got them evacuated in time,” said the officer.
The police said that the exact reason of fire would be known after a probe, and they were yet to take a call on registering an FIR.