‘No issues with AMC, fire alarm’

Aftershocks: Fire brigade officials carried out cooling operations inside MTNL building on Tuesday.

Aftershocks: Fire brigade officials carried out cooling operations inside MTNL building on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

MTNL chairman denies lack of funds was an issue, says maintenance contract had been renewed

“It cannot be said that the building’s firefighting equipment was not functioning due to lack of funds. The annual maintenance contract (AMC) had been renewed,” said P.K. Purwal, chairman and managing director of MTNL after visiting the fire site on Tuesday. Several other employees had come to the building to help out with post-fire logistics.

A major fire broke out in Bandra telephone exchange on Monday, with 90 people being rescued and two firemen getting injured. After the incident, a senior MTNL official had told The Hindu that the AMC and service contract for firefighting equipment had not been renewed due to lack of funds.

Countering the claim, Mr. Purwal said, “There were no issues with the AMC. This is an incident which can happen anywhere. Unfortunately, it happened in our office. This is not the time to discuss what is bad and good.”

Twenty-four hours after the fire broke out, the fire brigade declared the blaze under control at 12.55 p.m. on Tuesday, and the fire was extinguished at 8.15 p.m. Blue flames, which are said to be explosive concentrations, were also seen englufing the building. While the fire brigade said the building’s firefighting equipment was not functional, it has not sent the organisation a non-compliance notice yet.

“We are yet to assess the situation. The chief fire officer will decide whether a notice must be given,” a fire brigade official said.

MTNL has said the fire occurred due to a blast in a air conditioning unit in the mezzanine between the second and third floor, which houses the accounts and administration department. It moved swiftly through the exchange cable shafts to the second, third, fifth, seventh and eighth floor offices.

The telephone exchange caters to 25,000 connections in the Bandra area and is connected to 20 smaller exchanges that service 12,000 to 13,000 connections. MTNL is now trying to reroute these connections through its Vile Parle exchange. Besides, it caters to 10,000 broadband connections, which need to be restored. The Dolphin cellphone network in the area has also been affected.

‘Customers are priority’

“Customers are our top priority right now. We will be making these connections operational within 44 to 48 hours,” said Mr. Purwal.

Several staffers showed up at the spot to help with rehabilitation, on Tuesday. However, the exchange at this building will not be operational any time soon. The building has a power plant that has been completely damaged and a new one will have to be installed in its place.

Dilip Jadhav, general secretary, MTNL Kamgar Sangh, said, “This building will take at least a month to be functional. We might be allowed to enter it once power supply is restored.”

A telephone exchange is powered by a DC current and requires a stable power connection. This plant along with all the cables are completely damaged.

“There are 20,000 cables that will have to be physically connected to each exchange equipment. It is a massive job but our staff will do it as soon as possible,” Mr. Purwal said.

When asked about the building’s dysfunctional firefighting equipment, he said, “Fire alarm was functioning…the rest is a matter of investigation. An inquiry has been ordered through a committee headed by the general manager (transmission) for suggesting preventive steps and pointing out if there were any lapses. If there were lapses, we will fix responsibility.”

MTNL has said since a large amount of its data was digitised, it was not affected even though many files and official documents were burnt in the fire.

Meanwhile, officials from Bhabha Hospital have said the two injured firemen are stable but still under observation.

Municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi, too, issued a letter of appreciation to Mumbai Fire Brigade for their work during the fire. In the letter, tweeted by BMC’s official Twitter handle on Tuesday, Mr. Pardeshi has named senior fire brigade officials and said, “We highly appreciate the good work done by the Fire Department to control the fire,to evacuate all the persons stranded on the terrace safely. We wish heartfelt congratulations to the whole team (sic),” the letter states.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 11:52:59 AM |

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