'Floors affected by fire structurally sound'
Mantralaya’s fire-affected floors are structurally sound, a committee of experts has said in its preliminary report. The report says that the pillars, columns and slabs of the fourth, fifth and sixth were not damaged in the June 21 fire.
An official from the public works department (PWD) who accompanied the structural audit teams told HT that the sheaths of plywood saved the pillars and columns from being damaged beyond repair. “Extra layers of tiling saved slabs from [being damaged] by fire,” the official said.
“The plywood layers and tiling did not allow the fire to touch the inner part of the concrete structure. It proved to be a blessing in disguise,” he added.
However, the government will wait for a report certifying the strength of concrete extracted from the stress-bearing spots before deciding whether to merely refurbish the damaged areas, or to abandon them entirely. This was confirmed to HT by public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal on Tuesday.
However, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Tuesday said that there were no plans to redevelop the Mantralaya building at the moment.
The state has appointed two teams for assessing the stability of the secretariat building. Preliminary audits of the first, second and third floors conducted by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) as also by the public works department have said that the building is structurally sound. So far, auditors have not been able to go to the affected floors due to the debris there. NDMA’s experts will conduct audit of the gutted floors on Wednesday.
Chavan added that the extent of damages was yet to be quantified by the NDMA’s preliminary recommendations, which include removal of newly added steel structures on the seventh floor, inclusion of safety features like giving fire-resistant coating to partitions, electric ducts and insertion of concrete blocks between office spaces to stop spread of fire.
The state cabinet will review the crisis on Wednesday and explore various options to ensure smooth operation of the administration.
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