The fire at the AMRI Hospital, which claimed 91 lives, could have been brought under control much faster had the fire security system been in place and the fire alarms and sprinklers not been switched off, said one of the arrested directors of the hospital in his statement to the police.
“Fire alarms and sprinklers were switched off… This is because often there were fire alarms calling in the hospital,” State government counsel Kalyan Banerjee said in the court on Saturday, reading from the recorded statement of the accused.
Arguing before the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), which remanded the six directors in police custody till December 20, Mr. Banerjee said not a single fire alarm was working in the hospital at the time, though alarms were set up in every room.
Speaking to journalists hours after the tragedy, S. Upadhyay, senior vice-president of AMRI Hospitals, claimed that the hospital had followed “stringent fire safety measures.”
Yet, even the fire-fighters were surprised why not a single fire alarm and fire-safety equipment functioned when the smoke and fire engulfed the building.
Meanwhile, in an undertaking on August 29, which was produced before the CJM, the hospital authorities said all hazardous substances stored in the basement of the building would be removed. But they had failed to do so.
Mr. Banerjee pointed out that another accused also admitted that the hospital did not allow outsiders to enter the hospital, justifying claims that family members and locals were not allowed inside.
No managerial staff
According to the version of the city police, which was produced in the court, the first information of the fire was received on its emergency telephone number at 4.05 a.m.
The Fire Brigade was informed at 4.08 a.m. and the first fire tenders reached the hospital at 4.25 a.m.
Mr. Banerjee said the hospital authorities did not inform the fire brigade, and there was no managerial staff present in the hospital when the fire occurred.
He alleged that the all exit points at the hospital were locked, portable fire extinguishers were not available and the hospital staircase was stocked with articles, preventing people coming inside.