Fire services, police personnel kept on their toes

Two Municipal Corporation trucks carrying garbage from the Attukal Pongala festival area caught fire at two busy junctions in the city on Tuesday evening. No one was injured in the incidents.

Divisional Fire Officer R. Prasad said municipal workers may not have properly doused out the partially burnt kindling that they had gathered from dismantled roadside hearths before loading them on to the holds of the garbage trucks. The trucks had inflammable material, including paper cups, plastic plates, handheld paper fans, banana leaves, leftover of sacraments and other bric-a-brac. Fire tenders parked nearby prevented the blaze from spreading.

The Fire and Rescue Services and Police Department personnel attended to scores of women who fainted owing to exhaustion due to scorching heat. Fire-fighters hospitalised a woman whose hair caught fire while lighting the hearth. The engine of a car parked near the festival venue caught fire in the afternoon. The Fire and Rescue Services distributed 95 tankers of potable water to the devotees.

The police reunited hundreds of women and children with their relatives after they were separated in the multitude.

Officers used wireless communication, loudspeakers, and mobile telephones to guide lost children to their parents and devotees who had broken off from their respective pilgrim groups.

They also restored scores of lost purses, anklets and wristwatches to their owners. At least 50 women reported the loss of their purses and around 15, gold ornaments.

The police have detained several persons on charges of pick-pocketing and chain-snatching. They would rely on surveillance camera images at the festival area to fix responsibility for the reported thefts in the coming days.

It was a long day for the nearly 3,000 policemen who were deployed on festival duty from 4 a.m. They remained in their posts till 7.30 p.m. The clergy and laity of churches in the city helped pilgrims by arriving on foot for Sunday’s prayers. Mosque committees provided water and refreshments to pilgrims.