The City Light Hotel collapse has once again laid bare the inadequacies of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) in tackling emergencies.
Not for the first time that a dilapidated structure or a building under construction has come crashing down snuffing out many lives, mostly the poor.
It is neither able to demolish identified dilapidated buildings, not prevent illegal internal or external additions to such buildings nor is it able to rescue victims during a collapse.
If court cases and resistance of owners/tenants living in dilapidated buildings is cited as a prime reason, the fact also is that there are very few follow up actions.
A concerted campaign against old buildings is announced just before the monsoon or immediately after a building collapse.
It is quickly forgotten as the municipal corporation moves onto more pressing things of the day. Whatever lessons learnt from the August 2000 floods – it happened when current Chief Secretary P.K. Mohanty was the MCH Commissioner - resulted in the formation of a few more emergency cells but sans the necessary equipment or trained manpower.
No safety helmets
All they have are ropes, pipes, torches, pick axes, shovels and motors to pump out water or remove uprooted trees. “They don’t even have safety helmets,” bemoan senior officials, seeking anonymity.
Contract staff is used without any training to demolish buildings and to pump out water during inundations.
Neither the central emergency cell nor those in the zones have equipment like gas cutters, oxygen cylinders or thermal scanners - vital in the case of building collapses.
“Till the NISA personnel came in there was little the other government department personnel could do to pull out those trapped under the debris. There was utter confusion even as the earth movers were working,” point out senior officials. What should cause concern is the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation not heeding to its own internal report.
Only on paper
After an illegal building under construction crashed in Narayanguda three years ago killing 13 persons, a committee headed by then GHMC Commissioner Sameer Sharma had recommended appropriate training to rescue teams at the zonal level in using thermal scanners and gas cutters. Nothing moved on this front.
Current GHMC Commissioner M.T. Krishna Babu candidly admits the lacunae and had just initiated the process of making a training module with the help of NISA for his staff.
“We have given Rs.10 crore to the Fire and Emergency Department for disaster management as it has been made the nodal agency. But, we have to plug the loophole,” he said.