The fire that broke out at a godown storing plastic mats and floor carpets near Vyttila on Wednesday is a rude reminder that all may not be well with town planning practices and potential infernos dot heavily populated areas in the city.
The nearly 3,000-sq. ft. godown, spread over two floors and set up about a year ago, is hemmed in by residential units of varying sizes. A person living in the neighbourhood had to rush to shift a fully loaded cooking gas cylinder to safety in the wake of the fire, eye-witnesses said.
Questions remain on how the godown came to operate in a residential area. A senior town planning officer in the Kochi Corporation said mixed use was allowed within 250 metres on both sides of the National Highway. However, the godown that caught fire was located much farther from the highway and it had to be examined how the establishment got its permit, the official said. He admitted that business establishments sometimes furnished false information to get clearance.
Corporation councillor N. A. Shafeeq (Division 46, Chakkaraparambu) said Kerala Municipal Building Rules did not permit business establishments exceeding 300 sq. m in residential areas. Permission for such establishments had to be taken from the regional town planner, he said.
He said Chalikkavattam residents had a narrow escape a day ago when a plywood godown caught fire and was gutted.
The fire had broken out around 10 p.m. and it took the fire services personnel the whole night to put out the flames.