Delhi's Anaj Mandi Fire: Property Owners Sent To Judicial Custody
Taking strict action against the culprits behind the Anaj Mandi fire tragedy in the national capital, a Delhi court has sent the three property owners of the four-storey illegal manufacturing unit to 14-day judicial custody. Three people have been arrested under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire) of the Indian Penal Code. The case was transferred to the Crime Branch. The police had earlier told the court that these factories operated at the property without clearance from authorities.
The Delhi government had ordered a magisterial probe into the tragedy, the worst fire accident in the national capital since the 1997 Uphaar Cinema blaze that claimed 59 lives, and sought a report within seven days.
NDMC To Shut All Illegal Units Before Jan 15
In the aftermath of the Anaj Mandi fire tragedy in the national capital, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has initiated a survey to identify and close all illegal establishments before January 15, 2020. In past three days, four illegal units have been sealed while 45 units have been closed or vacated by the NDMC. At Narela, an industrial hub in the national capital, around eight units were sealed, of which four were industrial units.
Delhi's Anaj Mandi Fire Kills 43; Officials Say Building Was Surveyed Last Week
Update on Dec 9, 2019: Months after the Karol Bagh hotel fire, another tragedy in Delhi’s Anaj Mandi has claimed 43 lives, exposing negligence. The massive fire broke out on December 8, 2019, on the second floor of a four-storey building, where an illegal manufacturing unit was being operated, employing hundreds of labourers.
Located in a residential area, this structure didn’t have fire clearance. The building was surveyed last week, but the upper floors were found to be locked due to which the entire structure could not be inspected, say officials. The building is regulated under the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 which protects unauthorised construction from being sealed.
The building, spanning an area of 600 sq yards, had just one door. Fire department personnel had to cut window grills and metal meshes to enter to rescue trapped people, officials from the the Delhi Fire Services said. Only one fire tender could be sent at a time through the narrow congested lanes. Of the two staircases in the building, one was blocked by goods. The building also had a lot of combustible materials such as rexin, cardboards, plastic sheets, etc.
Police and fire department officials said many of the fatalities occurred due to suffocation as people were sleeping when the fire started at around 5 am.
Earlier, two major fire accidents were reported in a period of less than a month - one at a rooftop restaurant in Mumbai's Kamala Mills on December 29, 2017, and the recent fire tragedy in the Bawana industrial area of north Delhi which claimed 17 lives and injured many others. The fire broke out on January 20, 2018, inside an illegally used firecracker storage unit. In 2015, fire accidents led to 17,700 deaths out of the reported 18,450 cases in India, according to data by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
MakaanIQ brings more insights on building fire safety norms in India and the important things you should know:
The deaths caused by fire are categorised by NCRB into four groups viz. Electric Short Circuit, Fireworks, Gas Cylinder/Stove Burst and any other cause. Below are some facts that reveals how ill-equipped buildings are when it comes to fire fighting:
- Absence of a proper fire-fighting arrangement inside the building can easily turn the structure into a death trap.
- The power supply distribution and meter panels in most high-rise structures in India are installed in the lowest floors like the basement which is dangerous.
- In several non-residential buildings, such as some restaurants in Mumbai which are mostly old structures refurbished to modern style, have overloaded electrical systems. This leads to short circuits in the air conditioning or the lighting systems, which becomes the major trigger factor for fires. It is further catalysed by faulty electrical wiring or hanging electric wires.
- Deaths during fire accidents are mostly caused due to asphyxiation which highlights the fact that there is a lack of open spaces or escape routes in the building. In most case, these spaces are blocked, and the victims fail to make their way to safety.
Things to keep in mind
Fire safety not only starts from the construction stage but also involves organised human response to tackle the impact of the blaze.
- The National Building Code of (NBC) India makes it mandatory for all non-high-rise buildings to have fire prevention installations. They include hose reels, wet riser, an automatic sprinkler system, fire alarm system and water tanks on the terrace and below the ground.
- There should be sufficient open space around residential buildings to facilitate easy movement and operations of Fire Service vehicles. The National Building Code (NBC) specifies the number, size and location of exits.
- On the part of a building owner, it is important to properly maintain the staircases, stairwells and corridors, and keep them ventilated. Terraces are vital in case of high-rises so that people can assemble safely. Signages to locate clear pathways to exit doors is essential.
- Installation of automatic fire alarm systems or smoke detection systems are vital in identifying break out of a fire and containing it on time. Likewise, smoke suppression systems and fire extinguishers are must-haves for any commercial building.
- Regular fire drills and fire safety audits organised by the city's fire department are some compulsory preparations to be done for handling emergency evacuations better. This should be included, along with occupant training and safe work practices, under the standard operating procedures and must be done by an authorised fire safety officer.
- Combustibility of construction materials is a major handicap for buildings in India. Adding fuel to the fire is a closed room of concrete with no windows and a sturdy door which creates a fire compartment. Storage of hazardous or inflammable materials must be done with caution. Wise choice of flame-retardant materials for interiors can saves many lives.
- Have multiple copies of the building plan handy so that the rescue team knows clearly the way to reach the spot.
- Finally, request the fire department in your area to assess the level of safety in your building.