It is not every day that an ATM goes up in a flame. Passing through Urappakam, Vaishali R. Venkat is greeted with such a rare sight

Yet another morning and I was running my usual errands. There was nothing out of the ordinary: the everyday traffic mess on GST Road, motorists vying with one another to escape the chaos. Then all of a sudden things came to a screeching halt. I could hear people sounding alarm and cries of ‘fire, fire’ resonated. Like every other inquisitive person, I too stopped my two-wheeler and headed towards the place of action. On the right side of the road, I could see smoke billowing out of an ATM kiosk.

I stood frozen, witnessing the scene unfolding in front of me. People were rushing out of the Canara Bank branch to safety. The ambience was tense and reactions jerky. I stood among stunned spectators who were watching it all in disbelief.

Several of the onlookers were office-goers. One of them who happened to be there when the fire started narrated the episode in a broken voice tinged with anxiety, “Thank god! I was just waiting to draw cash from the ATM when I saw a thin cloud of smoke snarling out… I held myself back.”

Even before the fire tenders from Tambaram and Maraimalai Nagar along with the police arrived on the scene, a group of people, most of them from the adjoining shops, plunged into swift action, pouring water from buckets on the hissing blaze.

There was still much left for the firemen to do. They waged a battle for over half an hour to put out the fire. However, the kiosk was totally gutted. As the news spread, more and more people thronged the spot, posing a challenge for the police.

Tongues wagged about the cause of the accident. Some said it was due to electric short circuit, others attributed it to a fault in the air-conditioner. There was a rumour that nearly Rs. 10 lakh in cash was destroyed. As the fiery drama was coming to an end, the spectators started dispersing to carry on with their work. Meanwhile, C. Radha, Branch Manager, Canara Bank, said that cash was intact and that only the ATM centre and AC were completely destroyed. P. Sivaraja, in-charge of a men’s beauty salon next to the ATM centre, said, the glass door of the salon broke and the name board was also destroyed in the fire. He said the bank officials have assured him of meeting the damages. And after two days, restoration work is being carried out.