Special Correspondent

VIJAYAWADA: Two persons were killed in a major fire that broke out on the fourth floor of Catholic Complex, which had the office of Agri Gold Food and Farm Products, on busy Bandar Road on Tuesday. The victims were identified as Ch. Hanumantha Rao (62), a retired postal employee who joined the company a year and half ago as an attender, and R. Durga Prasad (26), a computer operator-cum despatch clerk with the company for the past three years.Fire-fighting personnel, who continuously tried from 2.30 p.m. to put out the fire, and the police were able to get into the floor only around 9.45 p.m. when the fire was extinguished. They identified the two bodies in the toilets but without any trace of burns.

Tragic end

According to the police, the victims could have died of suffocation. Durga Prasad reportedly helped every employee to leave the floor but went back for some reason and got stuck in the toilets. A resident of Krishnalanka, he was married barely a year ago and was expecting to be a proud father in a few months from now.

The family members of the victims broke into loud wails on seeing the bodies, which were taken to the Government General Hospital for post-mortem. Municipal Commissioner Natarjan Gulzar stayed put at the spot till the bodies were brought out.

The fire was apparently caused by short-circuit, and the fire tenders reached the spot in no time. But it proved to be very difficult for the fire tenders to reach nearer to the commercial complex and position themselves at a vantage point so as to be able to put out the fire. There was no space for vehicles to move around the building, and the fire services officials pointed out that the building did not meet the rules laid down by them. "The fire tenders could not move around the building freely to put out the fire," said D. Murali Mohan, District Fire Officer. V. Nagarjuna, owner of Ikon electronics showroom in the adjacent complex, was the first to notice thick smoke emanating from one corner of the floor. He quickly alerted the fire services, police and electricity officials. City Police Commissioner C. V. Anand was present throughout.

Agri Gold director S. Srinivas said they alerted all employees as soon as the fire was noticed.

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