Doubts of a sabotage attempt behind the fire that broke out in the Alappuzha General Hospital last night have gathered strength with initial inspections by the Electricity Board officials ruling out a short circuit as the reason for the accident.
A team of the Kerala State Electricity Board comprising senior officials inspected the premises on Tuesday and hinted that there was no evidence of a short circuit leading to the fire. However, further investigation would be conducted to ascertain the actual cause, officials said.
Forensic science experts also inspected the premises and have sent evidence samples to the Thiruvananthapuram Forensic Science Laboratory for analysis. A report is expected within two days, officials said, adding that the report could perhaps throw light on what set off the fire that raged for nearly four hours. The police too are investigating into the accident, with several people raising doubts that the building, constructed way back in 1817, could have been set on fire.
The portion that was gutted housed the Alappuzha Medical College’s Children’s out patient wing, which was shifted to the Vandanam premises of the Medical College Hospital only on Monday morning. The District Public Health Laboratory, which was still functioning in the same building, a pharmacy and a post office were also gutted in the accident, which began around 8.45 p.m.
The Health department, meanwhile, is yet to ascertain the cost of the damage, with both hospital authorities and district medical authorities still groping for answers on what was gutted in the 192-year-old structure. While a few said most of the costly equipment was moved out of the building by the locals during the fire, other officials contradicted this, saying that drugs worth several lakh of rupees and diagnostic equipment have been damaged.
The fire, first noticed by the attendants of patients in the adjacent building — which houses the labour room and post-delivery ward — triggered panic among the patients. Many of them were shifted to the Women & Child Hospital near the Alappuzha Beach.
Six fire engines, including some from Mavelikara and Cherthala, had to be rushed in to douse the fire, which was brought under control only around 12.30 a.m.