The inferno in Nallagutta area of Secunderabad, which raged for two days and probably consumed three lives, could have been avoided had the government responded in time and taken appropriate action on the recommendations made by the Fire Services department and GHMC.
This is the third massive fire accident in Secunderabad in less than a year’s time, which resulted in loss of multiple lives. In March last year, 11 migrant workers from Bihar were choked to death when a fire broke out in an unauthorised warehouse at Bhoiguda.
Within six months of that incident, eight persons died when flames emanating from the basement of a building engulfed a hotel in Secunderabad.
Sticking out in all the three cases is the utter disregard for rules and regulations on the part of the owners, and equally glaring apathy of the government, which has nothing to show when it comes to action taken to avoid future accidents.
In the latest incident, the structure where the fire broke out has two additional floors that were constructed over and above the permitted limit. According to the information available from GHMC, the building was constructed in 2014 for commercial purposes, with permission to raise only four storeys above the two level cellar and a ground floor.
Instead, it was constructed with ground plus six floors, a violation that has been condoned for over the last eight years.
A No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Fire department is mandatory for issuance of building permission for all commercial buildings over 15 metres in height and all residential buildings over 18 metres in height, as per the norms.
In the present accident, the building escaped compliance with fire safety norms, as its height is less than 15 metres on paper, though more in reality. A similar violation was noted in case of the previous fire accident at Ruby Pride Luxury Hotel of Secunderabad, after which a letter was addressed to the government by the GHMC recommending that non-residential buildings less than 15 metres height too, be brought within the ambit of the Fire Service Act.
A fire NOC should be made mandatory for issue of building permissions and occupancy certificate for non-residential buildings below 15 metres height, the letter said. Further, it recommended enforcement in terms of retrofitting of the existing non-residential buildings with fire fighting equipment.
A letter to the government from the Fire Services authorities reportedly made similar suggestions, even before the fire mishap at Bhoiguda. However, there has not been any action so far.