A major fire destroyed the office of a shipping agency office on Krishnan Koil Street in Mannady in north Chennai on Wednesday.

The police said that an electrical short circuit in an air conditioner might have caused the accident.   

They added that around 8 a.m., smoke started to emanate from the second floor of the five-storey Sea Fort complex but remained unnoticed until 8.45 a.m., when a few residents alerted the police. Immediately, a team from the North Beach police station rushed to the spot.

“Fire ravaged the entire office on the second floor of the building. It took more than three hours for the fire fighters to put it out. None were injured as the fire happened much before the usual working hours. The extent of the damage is yet to be ascertained,” said S.A. Srinivasan, police inspector, North Beach police station.

As the fire spread to adjacent sections on the floor, fire fighters from Royapuram, Vepary, Kilpauk, Esplande, High Court and Washermenpet were pressed into service. The police said that as the windows were barred with iron grills and a brick wall was built on the inside for security reasons, the fire fighters had a tough time in putting out the flames from outside despite using a sky lift to get access to the second floor of the building. They finally gained access through the main door. Files, documents, furniture, computers and air conditioners in the office were gutted.

Built nearly a decade ago, the building has around 30 companies, most of them shipping agencies and custom offices. “Most of the buildings along the street have many shipping agents’ offices because the Chennai port is located opposite the street,” said H. Shankar, a resident.

Officials of the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services (TNFRS) said that the building did not have any fire-safety equipment and the second floor of the building was a closed space, without any ventilation. This had proved challenging for the fire fighters.

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