Kochi

Broadway, Jew Town sitting on a powder keg

The busy Broadway and heritage Jew Town in Mattancherry figure under the ‘high fire risk’ areas in Ernakulam, according to an assessment by the Department of Fire and Rescue Services.

Inspections by the department since 2017 have revealed that Broadway lacks adequate fire extinguishers, sprinklers, and permanent fixed fire exits. A mere spark is enough for an inferno in the area, fuelled by dry clothes, paper, and wood stocked inside shops or dumped in careless heaps, it said.

“Inspections by squads found that goods and materials were stacked up in violation of rules in many shops on Broadway. The situation turns worse during festivals when textile shops store boxes and cartons with clothes along stairways and exit paths,” said R. Prasad, Director (Technical), Fire and Rescue Services Department.

It was also found that narrow and congested roads prevented the entry of more than one fire tender in an emergency, while the region lacked water hydrants that are supposed to be installed in strategic areas along streets to aid a quick response by the fire brigade in the event of a fire outbreak. The absence of pavements and water storage also remains bottlenecks, not to mention the lack of fire escape routes and setback areas.

“Most of the old buildings here are made out of wood, and a major fire breakout will engulf the entire area. Moreover, the unscientific laying of electric, telephone and other cables has worsened the situation. A short circuit caused fire in a shop last week, and the fire tender unit could not even make it anywhere close to the spot,” said Mohammed Sageer, general secretary, Kerala Merchants’ Union.

Jew Town in Mattancherry too sits on a powder keg, going by the findings of the Fire and Rescue Services Department. Maintaining that the region is highly prone to fire accidents, Mr. Prasad pointed out that inadequate fire protection systems, unauthorised constructions, and extensions to unsafe stocking of waste materials hdd aggravated the already vulnerable situation.

The heritage town has numerous shops selling antiques, handicrafts, and fancy materials. “Most of these shops have unsafe electrical wiring and installations and combustible materials like wooden panels. They also lack first aid fire-fighting equipment and fire hydrants,” said Mr. Prasad.

Rockey C. Neroth, former president of Kerala Handicrafts Dealers Association at Jew Town, said poor electrical systems and cabling combined with lack of adequate space for smooth movement of fire tenders make Jew Town and nearby areas perilous in case of a fire breakout.

“KSEB can help by laying cables underground and doing away with overhead lines. We also need help from the government to set up systems that ensure unchecked supply of water from the nearby Kochi backwaters in an emergency,” he added.

The Fire Department has recommended installation of fire hydrants in every 30 metres at Jew Town. For the purpose of drawing water, a pump house and an overhead tank with a minimum capacity of 2 lakh litres should be constructed. Each shop owner should be provided with at least one fire extinguisher. Besides, awareness classes could be conducted for shop owners for operation and maintenance of first aid fire protection equipment at the Mattancherry fire station, it suggested.


Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 10:34:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/broadway-jew-town-sitting-on-a-powder-keg/article27257591.ece

Next Story