A huge fire that gutted a leading textile showroom in Chennai's downtown T Nagar on Wednesday morning, continued to rage on for more than 24 hours after it broke out. No one was injured and 12 people were rescued from the seven-storied building on Wednesday. T Nagar is the market place in Chennai which has several silk shops.
The fire, which was first reported at around 4 am on Wednesday morning, had engulfed almost five floors of the seven-storey building which houses Chennai Silks, a leading textile brand, affecting normalcy in the key commercial area. The fire reportedly rekindled every now and then sending bursts of smoke and soot billowing on the streets.
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According to India Today TV, the key concern of fire personnel was that the entire building doesn't cave in. At around 3 am on Thursday, five floors (from seventh to second) collapsed after hours of blazing inferno.
A tragedy waiting to happen?
The incident drew attention to the dangers thousands of shoppers and businessmen face everyday. The teeming shopping hub in the heart of the city largely remains non compliant to fire protection guidelines. The narrow serpentine roads in the area proved to be a major challenge for fire tenders struggling to get the water tankers and fire-fighting trucks through.
According to a report in The News Minute, a Madras High Court-appointed monitoring committee had found in a 2006 survey that close to 75 buildings on Ranganathan Street in T Nagar were violating existing norms. Since then little has been done to address the several red flags it raised. Incidentally, the Chennai Silks building was also facing demolition for planning violation in 2006, however, it somehow managed to stave it off, according to The New Indian Express.
Around 60 fire tenders and at least 450 rescue operators have been deployed in the area. The fire department decided to deploy excessive force to contain the fire from spreading before it could be put out completely, according to India Today TV. The fire affected the traffic which led to closure of commercial establishments and retail outlets in the vicinity. Also, some residents living close to the showroom were asked to stay away by authorities.
Top officials told PTI that more than 100 tankers had so far supplied water to douse the fire and 150 firemen were still on the job to put out the blaze. A PTI correspondent who visited the spot this evening found almost nil visibility due to thick smoke, which had spread upto two to three kilometres. Road users, including two-wheeler riders and pedestrians, were put to acute discomfort.
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Officials from multiple state agencies, including fire and rescue, city police, Chennai Corporation and revenue department are on the spot coordinating to douse the fire.
The cause of fire is yet to be ascertained though it is suspected to be due to short-circuit.
"Our priority now is to put out the fire and extinguish smoke. We will look into the cause later," an official said. The blaze was noticed at about 4 am and several fire tenders were immediately rushed to the spot. However, accessing the building and spraying water inside
proved challenging in the centrally air-conditioned showroom.
"We had to demolish a portion of the front exterior of the building so that water could be let deep inside," a fire officer said. Fire fighters battled hard to get into the showroom from the ground floor even as the sound of things coming crashing down heavily from within was quite audible from outside.
Firemen surrounded the building and sprayed water from high-pressure valves to try and douse the blaze. Even after more than 10 hours of fire fighting efforts, flames were still seen smoldering inside parts of the building on several floors.
Though some cracks could be seen in the building, officials declined to state if it was due to fire and whether it would affect the structural stability of the structure.
"We will check everything...we will see if there were any violations later and consider appropriate options, if warranted," a senior official said.
The mishap is expected to cause loss worth crores due to the gutting of commercial stock and the building. "By using skylift, we rescued 12 people. None was injured... smoke is emanating from the basement and it is being extinguished," a Fire official told reporters, adding that an electric short-circuit might have caused the fire.
Officials said to ensure safety, the showroom and the area around it had been declared out of bounds for the public.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Jun 01, 2017 11:29:25 IST