Fire safety concerns soar as Bengaluru-Hosur highway is lined with cracker shops; resident calls for action after Attibele tragedy

Updated - October 09, 2023 01:11 am IST

Published - October 08, 2023 11:15 pm IST - Attibele/Hosur

Some of the vehicles that were damaged in the accidental fire at a cracker shop at Attibele.

Some of the vehicles that were damaged in the accidental fire at a cracker shop at Attibele. | Photo Credit: BHAGYA PRAKASH K.

Thousands of vehicles travelling on the national highway from Bengaluru to Hosur near the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border pass by over 50 permanent firecracker shops on both sides. This setup poses a significant fire safety risk which locals are now questioning authorities after the tragic incident at Attibele, where 14 lives were lost in a fire at a cracker godown-cum-shop on Saturday.

The Balaji Firecracker Shop, which was gutted on Saturday, was amid several other establishments, including a restaurant, liquor stores, and a few small eateries. Notably, within just 200 metres of the accident site, there were more than six other firecracker shops. Most of these shops were housed in buildings built very close to each other, with little ventilation, setback, and access areas, The Hindu found on Sunday.

Tanveer, a resident of the area, said, “If the fire had spread to nearby shops and eventually to other firecracker stores, the impact on both lives and businesses would have been devastating. Fortunately, the timely arrival of the fire brigade helped contain the flames.”

At the site of the accident, there is a significant flow of vehicles and parked cars, coupled with a high volume of pedestrian traffic. This bustling activity is further intensified due to the presence of more than three liquor stores and restaurants in close proximity. Local resident Tarak Prasad pointed out, “Right next to Balaji firecracker shop, there is a liquor store, and on the other side, there’s a restaurant, along with yet another firecracker shop. It’s concerning how authorities have allowed the placement of firecracker shops amid places where a large number of people gather. This situation could have been extremely dangerous. Those responsible for granting licences to firecracker shops should exercise caution, and the government must take action against the officials accountable for such decisions.”

Deepavali rush every year at Attibele

Nearing the Deepavali festival, when the demand for firecrackers surges, shops at Attibele cater to this by selling firecrackers at wholesale prices. These businesses here are a spillover of Hosur, located a short distance away, which is a hub of firecracker sales.

Meanwhile, the proximity of numerous liquor stores to firecracker shops has raised concerns among the locals. Many shop owners, licensed in other parts of the city, have set up shops here, drawing customers from Tamil Nadu. This influx occurs because the neighbouring State restricts the sale of several liquor brands, prompting many to travel to this area for their purchases for specific brands. “Many people from Hosur come here to buy liquor since they can find a variety of brands. To cater to these customers, small eateries such as biryani stalls have emerged in the area, along with paan and cigarette shops. Adjacent to these establishments are the firecracker shops,” Rajiv Reddy said.

Fire safety audit of all firecracker godowns

Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar said all the district administrations have been issued directions to conduct a fire safety audit of all firecracker godowns across the State to ensure no such accident occurs again in the run-up to Deepavali. “All DCs and police officials have been instructed to serve a notice to firecracker godowns, conduct an on-ground inspection of the godowns and ensure all fire safety measures are taken,” he said, adding that the government would soon formulate a policy aimed at preventing cracker-related fire accidents.

Alok Mohan, Director-General and Inspector-General of Police (DG&IGP), visited the site on Sunday and assured that stringent measures would be taken against these hazardous illegal firecracker shops in the area. “We will take action against those who granted permission to establish these firecracker shops. Since these shops are located close to the national highway, we will investigate the responsible authorities who issued licences for setting up firecracker shops here. Strict action will be taken against them, whether they are from the police, revenue, or fire department,” Mr. Mohan said.

Following his visit to the site, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the firecrackers stored at the godown lacked essential safety precautions. He said, “The owners disregarded all regulations, resulting in the tragic death of 14 people. The investigation will determine the legality of the godown.” He also emphasised that with Deepavali approaching, preventive measures will be implemented to ensure such incidents do not recur in the State.

Following fire accident at Attibele, firecracker shops closed in Hosur

Firecracker shops located across the Karnataka border at Hosur were shut on Sunday, a day after the Attibele tragedy.

Firecracker shops located across the Karnataka border at Hosur were shut on Sunday, a day after the Attibele tragedy. | Photo Credit: BHAGYA PRAKASH K.

Following the firecracker shop accident at Attibele, all the cracker shops located after the Karnataka border in Hosur, Tamil Nadu, were closed on Sunday.

Locals in Hosur said that the reason for the closure of the shops was unknown. However, after the incident at Attibele, many shop owners have voluntarily chosen to shut down their businesses. Kumara, a local street vendor, said “Usually, the firecrackers shops here remain open 365 days. Today, however, all of them are closed. It is said that after the fire accident at Attibele, the shops are closed.”

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