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Will Kolkata fire be a wake-up call for Mumbai?

We were lucky in Mumbai, says DNA in an edit. “Yesterday, 89 hapless patients perished in a blaze in one of Kolkata’s leading hospitals. Reports suggest the fire broke out in the basement, which was meant for parking but had been converted into a store room. A fortnight ago, another blaze gutted four commercial complexes in South Mumbai, including two built illegally by a fugitive gangster on government land. Here, the fire was caused by a short circuit, if the fire brigade’s report is to be believed, and spread rapidly because inflammable goods were packed into the tiny shops in the complexes.”

But, as DNA says, we will not be lucky every time. “Most city hospitals may not be fully prepared to handle a disaster of the magnitude of Friday's Kolkata hospital blaze. While the fire brigade admitted it does not carry out regular checks, officials said most hospitals are ill-equipped and do not follow safety norms. Blame it on the absence of regular audits and drills by the fire department or the hospitals' greed for space, but experts said Mumbai too is sitting on a time-bomb and the Kolkata fire should be a wake-up call. Even as rescuing patients is one of the most difficult tasks, officials said they are unable to carry out regular checks,” says Times of India.

Mumbai too is sitting on a time-bomb and the Kolkata fire should be a wake-up call. Reuters

More from DNA. “Shortage of manpower to monitor fire safety equipment in buildings and the laxity over slapping notices on violators has left the fire brigade handicapped. Though the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, made it mandatory for all residential and commercial buildings to strictly adhere to a series of fire safety norms, lack of manpower has left the authorities concerned helpless. “If anyone fails to adhere to the fire safety norms, then the owner of the building is either penalised (penalty between Rs30,000 to Rs1 lakh) or could be slapped with a six-month imprisonment. The Act has empowered the fire brigade by giving it discretionary powers,” explained a senior fire department official,” the paper said.

The Indian Express reports that the BMC doesn’t want to take a chance. “The BMC administration on Friday ordered the Mumbai Fire Brigade to conduct fire safety checks in all civic hospitals and other municipal buildings. Fire officials will also conduct fire audits in the major private hospitals. “We have given fresh instructions to check all municipal properties including municipal hospitals for fire safety norms. We have directed the chief fire officer to speed fast the process of these fire audits in the light of the fire incident in Kolkata,” said Manisha Mhaiskar, Additional Municipal Commissioner.”

Citizens need to do their bit as well. “Prevention is better than cure. And no one knows this better than personnel from the fire department. Officials from the fire department blamed negligence for fire outbreaks caused by defective electricity circuits at residential and commercial units. “The ends of electricity cables should not be kept open. A wire should not be left hanging on a staircase. It must be covered with a conduit or a metal or a PVC pipe. These appear to be small steps, but can help us avert major incidents,” advised HN Mujawar, chief fire official with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. He stressed on proper maintenance of the electricity system at all residential and commercial structures, including schools, colleges, malls and workplaces,” says DNA.

And, finally, some good news in all this doom “Aiming to develop a long-term partnership with KEM Hospital, three Israeli cardiac surgeons performed surgeries alongside doctors at the civic body-run hospital in Parel in the last three days. The surgeons, Dr George Franke, Dr Eyal Porat and Dr Viacheslav Bobovnikov from Rabin Medical Centre in Israel, are in the city as part of the Israel month celebrated by the Israeli Consulate in Mumbai. The doctors performed four congenital paediatric cardiac procedures and two adult cardiac surgeries in the hospital in the last three days. The surgeries were beamed live through video conferencing to 60 doctors from various hospitals sitting in the hospital’s auditorium,” reports Hindustan Times .