The fire at the apartment complex in Kilpauk could have been extinguished more easily had certain basic fire safety norms been followed. A slew of obstructions, including trees, a fountain and cars in the setback area, hindered fire-fighting operations. A sky-lift could not be moved into the premises of this 20-year-old apartment.

For details, see infographic at left.

“Had the fire spread to the rear portion, access would have been even more challenging,” an official of the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services (TNFRS) said.

This case is by no means singular. According to the TNFRS official, residents of most high-rise apartment complexes are indifferent to these norms. A great number of such buildings found within the Chennai Metropolitan Area and on its fringes have not renewed fire safety licences from TNFRS.

“At least 1000 multi-storeyed buildings get fire licences every year. Less than 10 per cent of such buildings are residential high rise structures,” said the TNFRS official. With the construction of multi-storeyed residential complexes on the rise, such laxity could not be treated lightly, he said.

Unlike commercial buildings, which could be shut down for non-renewal of fire licences, residential buildings did not face any such threat, he said.

Disaster management experts with the Chennai Corporation stressed the need for a well-prepared plan for fire safety in every high-rise residential building.

According to sources in Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority and the Directorate of Town and Country Planning, as many as 3,000 multi-storeyed buildings are located in the city and the suburbs.

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