Maharashtra hospital ignored fire safety measures: fire official

Ahmednagar Municipal Corporation's chief fire officer Shankar Misal has said that barring fire extinguishers, the other safety measures that we had suggested were not there.

Updated 4:04 PM, 7 November, 2021
As many as 11 COVID-19 patients, most of them elderly, died after fire swept through an intensive care unit of the district government hospital in Ahmednagar town on Saturday. Photo: PTI

A senior fire officer of Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar civic body has claimed that the hospital where 11 COVID-19 patients were killed in a major blaze on Saturday lacked fire safety measures suggested by them. A seven-member team, meanwhile, is preparing a report on the unfortunate incident.

In an interview to PTI, Ahmednagar Municipal Corporation’s chief fire officer Shankar Misal on Sunday said, “Barring fire extinguishers, the other safety measures that we had suggested were not there.”

Misal added that his department is checking the source of the fire, confirming who saw it first and what immediate actions were taken to arrive at a conclusion about the incident.

Misal agreed that had the fire could have been doused earlier had there been sprinklers at the facility.

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“There were oxygen pipes, electric wires, medical instruments, etc. But, most probably, short circuit seems to be the cause of the fire. Our officials checked the CCTV footage and it was seen that smoke first started billowing through the ceiling. We are conducting a thorough investigation into the incident,” he told PTI.

Meanwhile, a seven-member team, comprising divisional commissioner, government officials from medical field, state fire services and Misal, is preparing a report on the incident, which is likely to be submitted on Monday, officials said.

“The report will have details like when the fire brigade team came, what was its observation, how many fire staff members were there, what technique was used to douse the fire,” Misal said.

The incident is also being investigated by the Ahmednagar police.

“Our parallel investigation is going on in the case. It was a major incident, hence it is taking some time for the investigation,” Ahmednagar superintendent of police Manoj Patil said.

As many as 11 COVID-19 patients, most of them elderly, died after fire swept through an intensive care unit (ICU) of the district government hospital in Ahmednagar town at 10.30 am on Saturday.

There were 17 patients in the ICU, which was opened in 2020, when the fire broke out. While six were moved to safety, 11 died of asphyxia.

After the fire was reported, the Ahmednagar fire brigade rushed three fire tenders and water tankers. Fire brigade personnel brought the situation under control after 45 minutes of fire-fighting.

State ministers who rushed to the hospital said they were told by the hospital administration that an electrical short-circuit caused the fire, but the fire brigade said the hospital ignored shortcomings it had pointed out during two fire audits in the last six years.
As Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray ordered a probe and strict action against those found negligent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguish over the loss of lives.

In a Twitter post, Modi said: “Anguished by the loss of lives due to a fire in a hospital in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover at the earliest.”

State health minister Rajesh Tope announced a financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh for families of each of the 11 deceased.

In March 2021, 10 patients died after a fire broke out at the Sunrise Hospital in the Dreams Mall building where coronavirus patients were being treated.

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