Thursday dawned for the city’s businesses with a shock. Just as the commercial centres were opening for the day and employees and customers were trickling in, word spread about the worst fire yet in the city. The blaze at Vigneshwar Cresta at Lakshmi Mills junction, which killed four women and left nine others injured, was put out in two hours. But, it left the city fuming over building rule violations and lack of safety measures.

One prevalent view was that provision of an emergency exit in the building could have been a lifesaver.

Emergency exit is mandatory in public utility buildings. The Coimbatore Corporation is looking into the approval details of the building where the fire broke out, said an official of the civic body.

When The Hindu tried contacting the owner of the building over phone, he was not reachable.

The fire on Thursday seems to indicate that Coimbatore’s vertical growth has not come along with compliance to safety norms, including public buildings.

Repeated appeals to check these buildings for fire safety provisions have not had the desired result.

“There are over 500 buildings in the city that do not have the fire service department’s approval,” says N. Subramanian, the Divisional Fire Officer.

“The licensing authority should take action on these buildings,” he adds.

K. Kathirmathiyon, secretary of Coimbatore Consumer Cause, says the consumer body plans to go to the Madras High Court on this issue. The local body collects property tax and provides water supply. It should know the details of all buildings. The fire escape route is a must in public buildings. Power connections should be provided only if the buildings have been constructed as per the approved plan.

When the norms are violated action should be taken on the building owner, local body and electricity department officials and the architect, he says.

President of the Coimbatore centre of the Builders’ Association of India, R. Krishnaswamy, contends that builders are aware of the safety norms and most of the buildings in the city have adopted these. The buildings will get the licence only if the norms are followed, he says.

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