A godown of the Kerala Medical Services Corporation (KMSC) in Thumba on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram was gutted in a massive fire that broke out during the wee hours of Tuesday. A fireman who was involved in the fire-fighting operation was killed in action.
The incident occurred at the district drug warehouse of the State-run KMSC in the Kinfra International Apparel Park around 1.30 a.m. On hearing a huge explosion, a few passersby alerted the security team on the park premises. Soon, nearly 10 fire force units were dispatched to the scene from various fire force stations in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam.
Official sources said the gutted godown apparently stored a wide range of chemicals, including bleaching powder, washing soda, surgical spirit, chloroxylenol and chlorhexidine handrub. Other products such as calamine lotion and turpentine liniment were also stocked in the single-storied building that was situated close to the main building that stocked medicines.
The deceased officer, J.S. Renjith, 32, who hailed from Attingal and was attached to the Chakka fire force station, was crushed to death when a portion of the building collapsed on him. A concrete beam and hollow bricks fell on him as he attempted to break open a shutter. Despite being rushed to a private hospital, he succumbed to his injuries around 3.30 a.m.
While multiple agencies have launched probes into the fire mishap, preliminary findings pointed to the possibility of bleaching powder catching fire due to extreme heat. The authorities have dismissed the possibility of a short-circuit triggering the fire since the building did not have power connection. The loss is estimated to be ₹1.22 crore, according to preliminary findings.
Ruling out the possibility of sabotage, District Collector Geromic George said samples of the bleaching powder will be sent for chemical tests. The packaging of chemicals will also be examined to ascertain the cause of fire.
Kinfra managing director Santhosh Koshy Thomas told mediapersons that the building was structurally sound and had all necessary clearance. The godown has been functioning from the rented building for nearly 10 years.
Lacked safety capabilities
However, Director General of Police, Fire and Rescue Services, B. Sandhya said it lacked the no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Kerala Fire and Rescue Services. It also did not have the requisite firefighting capabilities that are necessary for a building that stored such goods.
The fire force had undertaken a fire audit and had conveyed necessary directions, she added.
Colleagues pay homage
Renjith’s body was kept at the Kerala Fire and Rescue Services headquarters at Chengalchoola and at the Chakka fire station for his colleagues and the public to pay homage. People from various walks of life, including Ministers, political leaders and senior bureaucrats, turned up to pay their last respects. He was accorded a water salute as his mortal remains were taken to his home for cremation.
Having joined service in 2016, he had served in the Mavelikara and Muvattupuzha fire stations before joining the Chakka fire station a year ago. He is survived by his parents and a brother.