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‘Virar hospital fire was due to presence of alcohol from sanitiser, O2’

The blaze at Vijay Vallabh Hospital in Virar spread rapidly owing to the presence of alcohol in the air from excess use of sanitisers over months and oxygen in the intensive care unit (ICU), according to Nilesh Ukunde, fire engineer and private forensic expert from Nagpur, deputed by the divisional commissioner of Nagpur Municipal Corporation to study the fire in Virar
By Ram Parmar, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON APR 29, 2021 01:52 AM IST

The blaze at Vijay Vallabh Hospital in Virar spread rapidly owing to the presence of alcohol in the air from excess use of sanitisers over months and oxygen in the intensive care unit (ICU), according to Nilesh Ukunde, fire engineer and private forensic expert from Nagpur, deputed by the divisional commissioner of Nagpur Municipal Corporation to study the fire in Virar. Meanwhile, the Vasai court on Wednesday remanded chief executive officer (CEO) Dr Dilip Bastimal Shah, 56, and director Dr Shailesh Dharamdev Pathak, 47, in judicial custody till April 30.

Fifteen Covid-19 patients were charred to death in the fire, last Friday.

Ukunde was deputed to study the incident as it was similar to the fire that broke out at ICU at Wadi, Nagpur hospital, claiming four lives, on April 9.

“The fire could have been avoided had the management used suction pumps to pump out the alcohol every eight hours. The process hardly takes two minutes. There was no cross-ventilation and the curtains were not fire-retardant. There was only one entry and exit point in the ICU, when there should have been a rear emergency door too,” said Ukunde. “The hospital did not have a water sprinkler system and how the fire audit was done is questionable. The local Vasai civic body and fire brigade, too, are to blame for giving the hospital fire clearance. The fire brigade personnel are trained only in firefighting and rescue of victims, but are not capable of conducting a fire audit, which involves detailed study of structural, electrical and even the paints, type of electrical switches to be used. The management follows what the architect, contractors and interior designers’ plan. Even if a small amount of alcohol settles inside the switchboard, it is enough to cause a huge fire,” said Ukunde.

“The heat from the sparks in the air-conditioning unit led to the fire as it came in contact with alcohol and only two nurses in the nursing station were present and they called the management and wasted precious time and did not call the fire brigade,” he said, adding that the findings have been submitted to the Nagpur and Vasai civic bodies.

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