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Lack of equipment, staff hampers rescue services

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RISK ON WHEELS: A petroleum tanker parked along the National Highway in Kochi. Photo: H. Vibhu
RISK ON WHEELS: A petroleum tanker parked along the National Highway in Kochi. Photo: H. Vibhu

K.S. Sudhi

Thrikkakara fire station looking for support

KOCHI: The Fire and Rescue office at Thrikkakara, which takes care of the rescue and emergency operations in the most risk-prone area of the district, is looking for support.

The absence of modern fire-fighting equipment to deal with situations like the oil spillage was evident on Wednesday when coconut oil spilt onto the road from a mini- lorry. Nearly 30 two wheelers skidded off the road between Vazhakala and Bharata Mata College, Thrikkakara, following the oil leakage.

It took nearly two hours for the Fire Force officials to remove the oil from the road and resume traffic.

Though the Thrikkakara office was assigned super speciality status seven years ago, given the nature of emergency and rescue operations it may have to undertake, the functioning of the unit has been affected owing to shortage of fire-fighting infrastructure and staff. The only weapon in the armoury of the unit, which may have to deal with accidents such as toxic chemical and pesticide spillage and leak of petroleum products, is just jets of water.

The ideal emergency practice to be followed in situations like spillage of oil on road is to spread sand over it so as to prevent skidding of vehicles.

As sand was not available for the rescuers on Wednesday, the Fire Service personnel had to wash the oil from the road using strong jets of water, said an official of the Thrikkakara unit.

Thrikkakara is among the places in the State with the highest concentration of high-rise buildings. A large number of tanker lorries and containers also regularly pass through Thrikkakara region transporting chemicals and toxic materials and petroleum products from the mega industrial and chemical units and petroleum companies.

The general public and the industrial units look up to the Thrikkakara unit to be the first to respond to any emergency situation. However, no one is taking any step to equip the unit with the necessary facilities to meet eventualities like chemical spillage. At present, the Thrikkakara unit is capable of fighting `A' class fire, which can be controlled by spraying water, said an official.

Super Speciality status is accorded to Fire Stations with staff strength of more than 100 rescue operators. But the sanctioned staff strength of the Thrikkakara station is only 39. Of this, 18 posts have been lying vacant for quite some time reducing the effective staff strength to 21.

The Government has not yet created the posts of officials for the Thrikkakara Fire Station.

It is also the case with a large number of Fire Stations across the State, said K. Babu, MLA, representing the area. The issue was taken up with the last UDF Government. However, the Government promised to consider the issue of all the stations at one go, he said.

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