A few days after last month’s twin bomb blasts, the government had sounded different departments about their level of preparedness to tackle emergency situations during any disaster.
When a similar message landed up at the GHMC head office, senior officials were bemused. “There is little we could do in the aftermath of the blast other than removing the debris because everything happened on the road. We could have played a role if any building was affected,” remarked Commissioner M.T. Krishna Babu.
What he meant was that other than pulling down dilapidated or damaged buildings, removing obstacles on the main roads during a gale, pumping out water from low lying areas, ensuring that excess rainwater flows away from the main roads during rain and the likes, there is little the civic body can do.
While the Commissioner was candid in admitting the state of preparedness, the condition of the municipal corporation’s central emergency cell and other ones at the zonal offices indicate that the civic body is in no position to tackle any major disaster even if it is a building collapse.
Apart from elementary equipment like motors, pick axes, tree cutters, torches, shovels, ropes and the likes, the emergency cell lacks any modern equipment necessary like thermal scanners and gas cutters to deal with emergencies even if it is a sudden building collapse either because of shoddy construction or because of any blast.
Incidentally, a high-level committee headed by the then GHMC Commissioner Sameer Sharma which probed the building collapse in Narayanguda where 13 persons had died two years ago, had recommended appropriate training to the rescue teams to be stationed at the zonal level in disaster management in using thermal scanners and gas cutters to cut concrete/iron beams.
Rescue teams then had to struggle to pull out those trapped due to lack of modern life saving equipment. But, the tragedy has been forgotten and lessons learnt, if any, is not yet visible as the GHMC emergency teams do not even have proper helmets, accept senior officials, requesting anonymity.
The municipal authorities are now stating that it is the Fire & Emergency Department which has to take up appropriate measures to tackle crises, nature or man made as it has been made the nodal agency.
Apparently, the GHMC has paid about Rs.18.2 crore in the last couple of years and will pay Rs.20 crore next year to the department according to the recommendations of the 13 Finance Commission as its share towards funding for disaster preparedness/management.
“We have realised the funds are being used by the department for purchasing new fire tenders. We will suggest purchase of gas cutters, thermal imaging equipment and others too,” senior officials affirmed.