The 22-floor office tower Lotus in Andheri, Mumbai caught fire in the morning of Friday, 18 July 2014. The fire started on the 21st floor of the building and grew stronger with strong wind. This untoward incident led to death of one fireman while trying to douse the fire and left 19 others injured with smoke and flames. The three floors that were fully engulfed were levels 20-22.
With this incidence comes to light the weak implementation of fire and safety norms in the building industry in India. Allegedly, the building had managed to flout multiple safety norms during construction. At the time of the blaze, the fire sprinklers didn’t work well and fire extinguishers and riser systems too were not in working condition. Added to that, the width of the staircase was not adequate for safe and timely exit for the occupants.
Senior fire brigade officials stated: “The problem with glazed glass exteriors is an aluminium foil layer on the inside. These glass claddings do not let the smoke out and keep the fire simmering inside. In the absence of ventilation, the area gets filled with smoke which prevents rescue and fire dousing operations. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been sitting on a policy banning the use of fixed glass façade for the past two years.”
When the death of one young fireman was confirmed during this untoward event, another fireman asked in anger: “The media should question our seniors as to why they allow their men’s safety to be compromised in this manner. How does our own department issue no-objection certificate to such hazardous high rises which are glass clad, where even our tallest ladders cannot reach. What precautions are taken for our safety?”