Horror hospital: Fire dept asked AMRI to clear basement in July

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said that officials from the fire brigade had told AMRI hospital to clear its basement in July this year, and the hospital had responded with an affidavit pledging to do so in two months. This piece of news comes even as the death toll from the fire has risen to 90, while many more are still missing.

After the major fire that broke out in AMRI hospital today, the state has decided to take precautionary measures. Two committees have been set up to look at the fire plans in the city's malls starting from tomorrow, 10 December.

Six directors of AMRI hospital have been held, following the outbreak of a massive fire that broke out at the AMRI hospital this morning. Meanwhile Police have filed a case against the owners of AMRI hospital under section 304 of the penal code. Section 304 deals with culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The owners, RS Goenka and SK Todi have surrendered to the Lalbazar police station where a case has been filed against them.

Earlier in the day Banerjee cancelled the hospital's licence as a law and order decision and called for the owner's arrest. RS Goenka is a co founder of Emami, while SK Todi is the Chairman of Shrachi. The Left front has announced a statewide day of mourning tomorrow (10 December). AMRI board member Rahul Todi told Bangla channel 24 Ghonta that they would have to accept the revocation of its license.

Meanwhile a preliminary investigation has revealed that an electrical short circuit was most likely the cause of the fire. The investigation has said that an electric panel was burned. Banerjee has also set up a high level investigative committee into the incident under the mayor of Kolkata. The Lalbazar police headquarters has also opened a special investigation into the incident.

The National Disaster Response Force that was checking the basement of AMRI hospital for a radiation leak, have said that there is no leak.

The hospital first said that 70 percent of its patients had been rescued, but it transpires that 90 of the 160 patients admitted at the time were killed in the incident. There is also worry that SSKM hospital which is receiving the bodies of those who were killed in the fire, may run out of space in its morgue. Bangla television channel 24 ghonta, reports that most people have died from suffocation not burns.

The Vice President of AMRI Satyabrata Upadhyay, has said the hospital will offer Rs 5 lakh as compensation for families of the dead. However victims are demanding further justice.

Bangla television channel Star Ananda said 65 bodies have been recovered from the AMRI hospital fire in Kolkata. Meanwhile there are scenes of grief outside the SSKM hospital, where 41 bodies have been brought. Banerjee has said that if needed, she is willing to provide government employment to relatives of those who were killed in the fire.

As the news of the death toll began sinking in, there was a flurry of response. Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed her sadness, while Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah tweeted, "Every time I see incidents like "#AMRI" I'm convinced we really are a 3rd world nation with delusions of greatness." Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed grief over the loss of life and sanctioned Rs two lakh ex-gratia to the next of kin of those killed and Rs 50,000 for those injured.

 Horror hospital: Fire dept asked AMRI to clear basement in July

Local TV channels said 65 bodies have been recovered from the AMRI hospital fire in Kolkata. Bikas Das/AP

The fire brigade said it will file an FIR against AMRI as it was unable to provide them with a blueprint of the building plan, effectively hampering rescue operations. Fire department officials have said that hospital authorities were unable to even tell them where the emergency exits and stairs were. The hospital has also been accused of violating safety norms and using the basement as a godown. The fire started in the basement at around 3.30am. A number of fire fighters are also reportedly suffering from smoke inhalation.

AMRI hospital has said that there was no delay on their part in calling the fire brigade and that the fire was quickly brought under control, but thick smoke hampered rescue operations. However patients family members have disagreed.

All post mortems are scheduled to take place at SSKM. However it is feared that many more patients, doctors and nurses, including those in the intensive care units are still trapped inside the upper floors of the hospital. Bangla channels have reported that 12 patients transferred to other hospitals have died and that bodies have been found on the roof of the hospital as well. The fire brigade has said that although the fire was in the basement, the central AC system carried the smoke all through the building, causing asphyxiation.

Earlier angry relatives of patients threw stones and smashed panes at the hospital registry, as they were being given no information about patients conditions and whereabouts. Police had to lathi charge a group of people throwing bricks. The hospital admitted that it was unprepared and said that they do not have a helpline set up for the families of patients who may have been injured or killed in a fire that broke out in its premises early this morning. Meanwhile West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is at the site, has called for a camp to be set up to give information on the patients.

Banerjee also called on Kolkatta's SSKM hospital has to open an emergency unit to accommodate patients.

Fire Services Minister Javed Khan said the hospital also did not have proper fire-fighting equipment. Some bodies were found in departments that firemen were able to access, he said.

The fire which was suspected to have originated in the electrical department in the basement of the centrally air-conditioned building swiftly spread, with the third floor and above being affected the most, fire brigade sources said.

The fire brigade dispatched 25 fire engines, which took time to reach the smoke-engulfed building because of narrow approach roads, Hakim said.

Firemen using ladders smashed window panes to release smoke and rescue patients trapped inside the ICU, ICCU, ITU and Critical Care units. The main power supply was also cut.

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With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Dec 09, 2011 22:43:22 IST

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