The Manikonda fire disaster was waiting to happen because of the large-scale unauthorised buildings that have come up in the erstwhile ‘villages’ abutting the west side of the city coinciding with the real estate boom.
It did happen outside the GHMC limits yet it does not mean that there are no potential towering infernos within. While most new constructions after the common building rules came into force and after the formation of the Fire Prevention Wing (FPW) within the municipal corporation have been adhering to the mandatory fire safety stipulations, the older buildings lag behind on this aspect putting many lives in danger, officials admit.
For example, there are 1,865-odd penthouses, illegal as per the law but no action taken. A majority of the penthouse owners had applied for regularisation under the Building Penalisation Scheme (BPS) and there was a serious debate whether to come out with an ‘innovative’ set of rules taking the “current conditions” into account.
But, it got scuppered down as there were doubts whether it would pass legal scrutiny and the stipulations of the Airports Authority of India (AAI). Same thing happened with some residential apartments of more than 18 metres high as various measures mooted to make them fireproof has not taken concrete shape due to various kinds of apprehensions.
The threat of sealing and even forcible closure of a couple of them did force a few flats owners to install fire hydrants, extinguishers and hose pipes if not the entire paraphernalia. FPW’s periodic surveys, notices, and demonstrations in schools and hospitals in the last couple of years have moved things a bit in making some public buildings fit for firefighting.
Of the 489 hospitals issued notices to follow the fire safety norms after the Park Hospital mishap, 350 had complied. The compliance rate in the schools and commercial complexes including malls is pretty poor. Just 15 of the 450 commercial complexes had installed fire fighting measures and among schools of the 2,154 about 129 had complied, officials revealed.