People also join in rescue operations that took over 2 hours

Lakshmi Mills Junction, one of the busiest traffic points of the city, came to a standstill on Thursday morning owing to the fire in the commercial complex, Vigneshwar Cresta. And, what stood out was the involvement of various agencies and the general public in saving lives.

Traffic was held up for more than two hours, as fire tenders and ambulances were positioned to put out the blaze and shift victims.

Help from all

Fire tenders from the Air Force Administrative College (AFAC), INS Agrani and Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services and over 18 ambulances from EMRI 108 and private hospitals formed part of the nearly two-and-a-half hour rescue operation. The Coimbatore Corporation chipped in significantly with its water lorries for replenishment for the fire tenders and ladders for the rescue.

Coimbatore City Police Commissioner A.K. Viswanathan along with Deputy Commissioners of Police Pravesh Kumar, K. Sugumar, S. Ramar and N. Sankarsivam and about 200 police personnel joined the rescue.

At one stage, Mr. Viswanathan pointed out that the lack of an emergency exit in the three-storey building was turning rescue an uphill task.

District Collector, M. Karunagaran, brought in a large number of revenue staff to add to the strength of the rescue team. The revenue staff arranged for drinking water and rescue material such as ropes. AFAC Commandant M.S.G. Menon constantly coordinated with the Sulur airbase for a chopper to rescue nine persons stranded on the terrace of the building.

It could have been just another officially routine day for Senior Regional Manager of Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) S. Prabhakaran. This former District Revenue Officer of Coimbatore District plunged into action, frantically making phone calls to bring in more help to step up the rescue operations.

At one stage, he even asked the Sulur Tahsildar to rush to the Sulur Air Force Base to speed up the process of getting the chopper.

Corporation Commissioner G. Latha and Assistant Commissioner A. Lakshmanan ordered as many water lorries as possible to ensure that the fire tenders did not run dry.

All the major private hospitals sent their team of paramedics and ambulances to the spot.

Youth from neighbouring Ammankulam, Puliakulam and Pappanaickenpalayam assisted in the rescue. Some of them helped in breaking the glass windows so that the thick smoke that trapped people inside came out.

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