Mantralaya fire: BMC wakes up, finds measures need relook

Pic: Rons Bantwal

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In 2009, the Mumbai fire brigade carried out a fire audit of the civic headquarters outside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and found that most fire safety norms were being flouted. On two occasions, the fire department also warned the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to fix the firefighting system, but the warnings were ignored.

The BMC has been woken up from its slumber after a major fire almost destroyed the Mantralaya on Thursday.

On Friday evening, mayor Sunil Prabhu and chief fire officer Suresh Joshi inspected the BMC headquarters and found that the firefighting system needs to be upgraded. Prabhu said a team will soon be formed to carry out the fire audit of all civic buildings in the city, including administrative wards and schools.

Mumbai June 23 :- Workers began putting up parati ( bamboo ) at the prestigious Ashoka Chakra to start restoration work of Mantralaya after the 3rd day of fire in Mumbai. 

“We regularly carry out mock drills at the headquarters on holidays to ensure that the firefighting system is functioning properly,” said Joshi.

For 5 yrs, PWD sat on audit report
The public works department (PWD), which is responsible for the structural and fire safety of the Mantralaya building, sat on the fire and structural audit report for five years. Confirming that the safety and structural audit report were not taken seriously by the PWD, an officer from the general administration department said, “We had been pressing for the implementation of the 25-point recommendations, of which only 15 were complied with.” The recommendations include an open space in the corridors, removal of stacked files and old furniture from gangways.

PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal said it was very difficult the stick to the fire safety norms in the wake of numerous internal modifications, piling of dusty files and the stacking of old furniture by various departments.

JJ college report gathered dust
The state government appointed Sir JJ College of Architecture and senior state architects to submit a confidential report on fire and security safety measures at the Mantralaya in 1999. But, the findings were not implemented by the government.

According to the report, the partitions between the cabins of two ministers and babus should not have been wooden. It further pointed out that the furniture was not fire-resistant. It also highlighted the need for a proper approach road for fire brigades to ensure that rescue operations and the dousing of fire face no obstructions. The proposed architects’ suggestions would have cost Rs40 crore in 1999.

State chief architect Bipin Sankhe confirmed the submission of the report, but refused to disclose the findings.

Why has no one been pulled up yet?
No action has been taken against any hospital, school, market, commercial establishment, mall and multiplex found flouting norms in the past.

Asked if fire officers have prepared compliance reports or prosecuted any establishment, joint municipal commissioner SS Shinde, who handles the Mumbai fire brigade, said, “No such report is prepared and we expect people to comply with these rules for their own safety.”

Mumbai, June 23 :- PWD workers busy to clean ward of G T Hospital building, where Mantralaya’s some offices shifted due to major fire broke out at Mantralaya on Thursday  



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