K.S. Sudhi

Hydrants along the city have become dysfunctional

Only 4,500 litres of water in a fire tender

KOCHI: Kochi city is sitting on a powder keg as the 100-odd hydrants for fire fighting installed in various parts of the city have become defunct.

With the threat of a terror strike and subsequent fire outbreak looming over the city, the fire fighters are fighting an unusual situation resulting in the hydrants becoming non-functional: water shortage.

“Once the 4,500 litres of water stored in a fire tender is emptied in the process of fire fighting, we have to travel up and down through the chocked city roads in search of a natural water source for refill and then resume the mission,” said E.B. Prasad, Divisional Fire Officer, Ernakulam division. “By the time we return, everything would be reduced to ashes”.

Hydrants are water sources intended for fire tenders and other emergency and rescue operations to ensure uninterrupted supply of water at required pressure. The hydrants are connected directly to the main supply line of the drinking water pipelines that run through the city. The Kerala Fire Force Act also permits the Fire and Rescue workers to draw water from the hydrants for controlling fire.

Imagine the situation where a fire breaks out in one of the crammed offices on MG Road or shops on Broadway. Any fire ignited by a subversive activity or an accident would do the damage before the fire tenders could act effectively if they run short of water. The Fire and Rescue officials of Kochi had in the past encountered such situations. While attending to a fire that engulfed a shop on Broadway, the fire engine ran out of water. The hydrants in the area were also found defunct.

Refilling issue

“As we approached the pumping station of the Kerala Water Authority in the city for refilling the fire tenders, the officials refused to give water. Eventually, it required the intervention of the then District Collector for the authority officials to release water,” recounted Mr. Prasad.

Similar incidents have taken place in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode also, he said.

Could the city wait for long to get the fire tenders refilled in case of a fire created by an act of terror?

The city may have to pay a heavy price for this water scarcity in the given situation, he warned.

The widening of roads and construction activities that the city witnessed over the recent years have rendered all the hydrants useless.

In case of a major fire and there arises the need for uninterrupted supply of water through hydrants, it is suggested that the water supply to other regions should be closed and the water diverted to the hydrant for the fire tenders to use.

When contacted, K. Jayakumar, Principal Secretary to the Water Resources Department, said the Kerala Water Authority will take steps to make all the hydrants work in a “record time.”

“It is the duty of the Fire and Rescue Department to check the hydrants at least on an annual basis to ensure that they are functioning. Once we get the report, steps would be taken to make them functional,” Mr. Jayakumar said.

RELATED NEWS

Broadway: a tinderboxSeptember 16, 2014

More In: KERALA | NATIONAL