Mumbai fire kills 9: ESIC Kamgar hospital failed safety audit fortnight before tragedy; staff protests inadequate facilities

The staff of the ESIC Kamgar Hospital in Mumbai staged a protest against the hospital administration on Tuesday after nine people, including a five-month-old baby, died in a fire on Monday. The staff was protesting against alleged inadequate facilities at the hospital.

On Monday, six people died and 147 were injured after a level-3 fire broke out at Employee State Insurance (ESIC) Kamgar hospital in Andheri. The toll rose to nine on Tuesday as three more people succumbed to their injuries. Of the 147 injured, 27 people are reportedly in a critical state, The Times of India reported.

Hospital failed safety audit a fortnight ago

The staff protests come amid reports that hospital failed a fire safety check just a fortnight before the deadly incident. NDTV reported that the fire department found out that the sprinkle and detection system were not up to the mark. Moreover, the hospital had stored inflammable material on the ground floor, without proper safety arrangements. The staff told the news channel that the material caught fire and the flames spread rapidly in absence of proper firefighting equipment.

This was highlighted in another PTI report, which quoted a fire official as saying that the blaze appeared to have erupted after a short-circuit near the rubber rolls stored on the ground floor.

"The rubber rolls are combustible material and they might have caught fire after the short-circuit on the ground floor. The smoke then spread on the upper floors through an open fire duct," he said. The exact cause would be known after an inquiry into the incident, he said.

Furthermore, the rescue and relief operation was hindered by the building's glass facade as it blocked air passage and firemen had to break the glasses on all the floors to evacuate those stranded inside. "Most of the deceased, including the six-month-old child, died due to suffocation," the fire official said.

Milind Ogle, the deputy chief fire officer of the MIDC area, said the hospital doesn't have the final no-objection certificate for fire compliance. "The hospital applied for the final NOC a fortnight
ago for its under-construction building adjacent to the old structure that caught fire," he said.

"When our team visited the hospital to inspect the conditions for fire compliance, it found certain shortcomings in the installations and it was communicated to the hospital administration," Ogle said. While reviewing fire compliance norms for the new building, the team also noticed some lacunae in the old hospital building, he said. "So we refused to issue the full and final fire NOC to the old building also," he added.

The official cause of the fire, however, is not yet known. The 325-bed hospital was constructed in 1970s, the officials said, adding police and hospital authorities have vacated the building till further notice.

Government orders probe

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered enquiry into the incident following reports of inadequacies and negligence on part of the civic hospital. The chief minister also spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Health Minister JP Nadda. Fadnavis expressed grief over loss of lives and prayed for the speedy recovery of injured. He assured the victims of all assistance.

A fire brigade official said the blaze at the hospital was reported at 4.03 pm and it was extinguished at 7.35 pm. "The building is a ground plus five-floor structure and the blaze erupted on the fourth floor," the official said.

With inputs 

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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2018 17:36:33 IST