Five months ago, there was another fire at Carlton Towers

Deepa Kurup

‘Never seen a fire drill in the eight years I have worked here'

The Fire and Emergency Services were not called the last time

‘We did try to complain but unfortunately they paid no heed'

BANGALORE: The fire at Carlton Towers is not without precedent. At least one minor conflagration had been doused in the service duct just five months ago, a man working in the seven-storey building confirmed on Wednesday.

However, the blaze, which should have been a forewarning, was forgotten soon after a few maintenance workers and employees contained it using fire extinguishers. The Fire and Emergency Services were not called.

Assumed it was minor

The man, who works for an IT firm on the first floor and did not want to be named, told The Hindu that this time too he assumed that the fire was a minor one. Like they did the last time, he and his friend grabbed fire extinguishers from the maintenance department on the ground floor and tried to douse it. “But this time it simply exploded. A blast of smoke forced us to run out of the building,” he recounted.

“In fact, after last time we did try to complain. Unfortunately, they paid no heed and now it has resulted in such a major tragedy.”

Having worked for eight years in the building, he vouches for the fact that not a single fire drill has been conducted. “They test the smoke alarms now and then, but a full-fledged drill never happened so nobody knew what to do.”

It is only when they heard their office assistant scream that they realised that this was much more than a fire.

Screaming for help

The two charged out of the smoke-filled basement to see people screaming for help from the upper floors. Window panes rained down like missiles.

Just then he turned to find a man had come crashing down seven (or six) floors on to the concrete paving. “That image of the body lying in a pool of blood was shattering. When we tried to pick him up we found that his arms were limp but he was breathing,” he said. “A minute after we placed him in the autorickshaw, we saw another man come crashing down.”

‘Inept fire force'

Ramesh Chautala, who works in the nearby Dell office, was visiting a friend in the building when the fire broke out. “We were asking people on upper floors to wait for fire tenders. But when the tenders arrived none of them had safety nets or even ladders that were long enough.”

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