193 residential and commercial buildings get notices for lack of safety measures

Excess heat in the chimney of a restaurant on the third floor of Empire Mall was all it took to start a fire there on Tuesday. Panic ensued, and five fire tenders appeared at the scene.

Incidentally, the mall was further down on the list provided to the Karnataka Emergency and Fire Services, which is undertaking a major review of high-rises in the city. The review is prompted by a 2011 High Court verdict prompted by the Carlton Tower disaster, where, in a similar commercial complex in Bangalore, nine were killed in a blaze 2010.

In the past three months, a total of 193 apartments and commercial high-rises in the city have received notices from the Fire Department. And, with the deadline being set to December, many more will receive notices.

At the start of the drive, the department had obtained a list of 475 buildings that are 15m and above – including those before 2006 that need not have applied for a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Fire Department before construction – in the city from the Mangalore City Corporation. However, officials said that in their exercises so far, numerous unlisted buildings have been found in the city.

“Just 36 buildings have followed the specifications given during NOC,” said the Chief Fire Officer Fire Officer H.S. Varadarajan.

He said that since the start of the exercise, at least 50 persons from residents’ association come to Fire Station at Pandeshwar on a daily basis.

“There is panic, and a belief that we’re harassing them. However, we’re only following High Court orders,” he said.

However, it must be remembered that issues of setback and road width – which remain contentious in a city like Mangalore and which cannot be rectified within three months – are not being taken up, and instead, apartments are being pulled up for lack of safety measures in car parks, smoke detection system, call point (siren or intercom), at least two sets of staircases (which appears to be a common violation), among others.

Penalties

The building – either the owner or the residents’ association – is given three months period to comply with the fire safety regulations. “If not, we can ask Mescom to cut off power supply; corporation to cancel occupancy certificate, and if the violations are not rectified even after than, then as last resort, can forcibly evict the residents,” said Mr. Varadarajan.

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