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Updated: April 26, 2013 04:20 IST

Survivors recall brush with death

Karthik Madhavan
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A woman being rescued from the office complex which caught fire on the arterial Avinashi Road in Coimbatore on Thursday. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan
The Hindu
A woman being rescued from the office complex which caught fire on the arterial Avinashi Road in Coimbatore on Thursday. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

Members of the public helped in rescue efforts

Till 9.30 a.m. Thursday, it was just another day for A. Manoharan (28) at his office on the third floor of Vigneshwar Cresta, which is at the Lakshmi Mills Junction. The stock broking firm employee was sipping tea with his friends, as they used to, before beginning work.

A couple of hours later, he was at the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital narrating the close shave with death he and his friends had in a fire at the building that killed four women and injured nine.

“My friends and I were discussing the work ahead when we noticed thick black smoke billowing out from the eastern side of the building. A peep outside the window confirmed our worst fears that it was a fire.”

Employees who were at the eastern side of the building rushed to western side to escape. A few others cried for help. The employees, around 20, thought they could take the stairs to reach the ground. But, they could not as every step down brought them face-to-face with thick smoke.

The employees rushed back to the western side of the building, peeped through the windows, cried for help to draw the attention of those passing by. By then, members of the public had stationed a bus on the pavement to help those trapped to get down.

Those in the group and atop the bus threw ropes to the third floor, which women and 10 men held on to get down. “I held as tightly as possible the rope and slid down in the midst of those waiting to rescue people,” he said.

One of the people who helped Manoharan and others was 25-year-old telephone company employee N. Kannan. “On my way to office, I was at the junction, waiting for the signal to turn green when I noticed the fire.”

He stopped his motorcycle to join the public who were on the ground. “Like many others, I extended my hand to catch those jumping from the buildings.”

By then the public had diverted a private bus that plies on route 5 to the building’s basement to help those jumping from the building. The public rescued around 15 persons.

Mr. Kannan said members of the public managed to get the rope from the bus driver.

Jeevitha and Suganya, who jumped off the third floor, were operated upon at G. Kuppuswamy Naidu Memorial Hospital for fractures in the leg.

One of the victims of the inferno was J. Margret (58), a housekeeping staff at the building. Her son J. Daniel (26) said that Thursday’s fire accident has left him orphaned as he had lost his father 15 years ago.

His mother was working in the building for more than 15 years, earning a few thousands to keeping the fire burning at the kitchen. “But for my mother, I would not have continued my education and secured the job of a sales officer at a private bank.” He was waiting at the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital mortuary to collect his her body.

Leading fireman M. Raghunathan (48) sustained injuries while battling the flames to save lives. Glass that shattered in the fire hit him and his colleagues while they were atop the fire tender. They are under treatment at the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital.

V. Karthik, an executive with ICICI Lombard who was in the building, said, “I first saw smoke and in no time there was a major fire. There was total panic and we tried to safely evict some of the women colleagues.”

M. Rajamohan, another employee of the firm, had inhaled a lot of smoke and was rescued using ropes. Even as police and Fire rescue teams were checking for survivors, women from a nearby locality were weeping, stating that their neighbour Vijayalakshmi was missing. She was charred to death.

(With inputs from V.S. Palaniappan)

What was the role of the fire service? When did they come?

from:  I.C.Nito
Posted on: Apr 26, 2013 at 22:37 IST

My heart felt condolences 4 die employee

from:  MAIDEEN PKT
Posted on: Apr 26, 2013 at 13:05 IST

One more misery unfolds and our heart goes out to the women who were burnt to death. It has been reported that the stair cases were shorter than the prescribed width, there were no emergency exits and no fire service approvalhas been obtained. Then how in the name of God the building was permitted to operate ? The Coimbatore Corporatin (or municipality?) people must have permitted this for some "considerations". One hopes some honest guy in the Govt will pursue this and take action. Corruption turns out to be the root cause for most of our ills.

from:  V. VEDAGIRI
Posted on: Apr 26, 2013 at 11:54 IST

My heart felt condolences to the bereaved families, specially,
Srilakshmi's family. She had just two days left before relocating to
Chennai. What a fate?

from:  Padmanabhan
Posted on: Apr 26, 2013 at 11:45 IST

Salute to those brave and good samaritans !

from:  senthil
Posted on: Apr 26, 2013 at 11:43 IST

Very tragic and very unfortunate indeed, I just fail to understand why people take things lightly as far as fire safety is concerned.The shape of the building itself is very odd,lot of useful space was wasted, this could have been used for providing broad stairway. The Icici lombard office located in that ill fated building(I used to visit frequently) was very congested,and I used to wonder why Icici lombard choose this congested office space.I have also noticed in many offices that the Ups units are kept in very small spaces and that too with lot of materials dumped all around them,In case of an emergency it is just impossible to get very close to the Ups.This is one of the many reasons for fires that spread very rapidly. Will all concerned people look into this matter very very seriously please.

from:  S.Ravindran, Nallampalayam, Coimbatore.
Posted on: Apr 26, 2013 at 06:49 IST
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