A major fire broke out in Khalsa Mahal, part of the Chepauk Palace, a heritage building, destroying the offices of the directorates of Social Welfare, and Industries and Commerce, in the early hours of Monday.
One fireman was killed and three others, including a Divisional Fire Officer, were injured when the roof of the 18th century structure came crashing down during the five-hour firefighting operations.
The fire, in which important government documents and papers were charred, was due to an electrical short circuit, suspect sources in the Fire and Rescue Services.
A fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture, Khalsa Mahal was one of the two structures that formed the core of the palace, which was taken over by the British in 1859.
In the 1960s, the Tamil Nadu government constructed the Ezhilagam complex, fronting the Marina beach, and located several of its offices there, including some in the palace buildings.
The fire was first noticed by the watchman of the Directorate of Industries and Commerce, K. Kapoor Bague (50). Within 45 minutes, they managed to contain the blaze on the western side.
Following this, DFO (Chennai City Central) N. Priya Ravichandran, Station Fire Officer (Ashok Nagar) Murugan and a few others went inside the building through an iron gate on the western side.
Moments later, the roof of the building collapsed. The weight of the debris brought the first floor crashing to the ground as well.
K. Anbazhagan (55), a Leading Fireman with the Teynampet station, got trapped under the burning debris and died on the spot. His body was removed from the debris after a 45-minute struggle.
Ms. Priya narrowly missed coming under the debris as she ran out but suffered severe burn injuries. Mr. Murugan's left leg got trapped in the rubble.
Fireman Prabhakaran (22) also sustained injuries.
Ms. Priya and Mr. Murugan were admitted to Apollo Hospitals and their condition is stable, sources said.
More than 70 firemen fought the blaze using 15 fire tenders and over 30 water lorries. It was put out completely around 6 a.m.
The Anna Square police have registered a case based on a complaint by Mr. Bague and are investigating.
Keywords: Chepauk fire accident