Official admits to ‘limitations’ in fighting fire, two more held
Gujarat’s chief secretary Dr J N Singh said that the government will conduct fire safety audit of all the commercial buildings in the state and ensure that in future no such incident happens.
Gujarat’s chief secretary, J N Singh, on Sunday admitted to “limitations” in fighting the fire in Surat on Friday that left 22 students at a tuition centre dead.
He said “bitter lessons” have been learnt and the government will conduct a fire safety audit of all the commercial buildings in the state to ensure no such incident happens in the future.
“The fire call was received at 4.03 pm and the first vehicle reached the incident site at 4.07 pm. But it took some time for bigger vehicles to reach the spot because of the traffic. And there were reports of water pressure not being enough for dousing flames. There were some limitations of the fire brigade,” Singh said.
He said urban development secretary Mukesh Puri has been asked to conduct a detailed inquiry into the fire. Singh added that Puri will submit a detailed report to chief minister Vijay Rupani’s office on Monday.
Preliminary probe revealed that use of highly inflammable materials and tyres, which doubled up as chairs in the coaching class, caused the fire to spread rapidly, Singh said.
“The fire spread very quickly because highly inflammable materials, such as flex, were used... The ceiling (of the coaching institute) was just five feet high. Since one cannot sit on a chair in such a room, the owner used tyres instead of chairs for the students,” the chief secretary told reporters here.
“We are examining ... whether any proper permission was taken for construction. And, if permissions were not given, who was responsible for this,” Sharma said.
Preliminary investigations suggest a short-circuit caused the blaze, he added.
Singh said officials have since Friday inspected 9,925 commercial buildings. He added that no commercial building will be allowed to run without fire safety clearances.
“In Surat alone, 123 commercial establishments were found to be lacking firefighting equipments,” Singh said. He added notices were being issued to the building owners to meet the fire safety norms.
As many as 22 students aged between 15 and 22 were killed and 15 survived with critical injuries after jumping from the third and fourth floors of the Taxshilla building, which housed the coaching centre. All the dead were cremated on Saturday.
Meanwhile, authorities said two fire department officials had been suspended.
Bharat Butani, 26, owner of Smart Design Studio, which tutored students in arts and crafts, was arrested, while builders Harshul Vekaria and Jignesh Paliwal remain on the run.
On Sunday, the Surat police arrested two absconding builders in connection with the fire tragedy.
The police booked them and the owner of the design studio, where the fire broke out, Bhargav Butani after the incident. Bhutani, who had jumped from the building, was arrested on Saturday.
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