This building in Calcutta was involved in a fatal fire today, with 24 deaths reported so far and additional people still missing. The top floors of the building had been added illegally, but the building owner paid a fine and all was forgiven. The fire department reportedly had never inspected the building.
Each section had access to one stairwell, and in order to reach additional exits the occupants would need access to the roof. The doors to the roof were locked and the stairwells were compromised by smoke, so there was no way out. The two caretakers for the building have been arrested, and the building owner has not yet been located.
From an article in the Indian Express:
“Back in 1984, not only were the fifth and sixth floors built illegally — in violation of all safety norms — the fire exits and escape routes which the original building had, were all blocked during that construction, said fire service officials.
Even so, there was one fire exit at the rear of the building that the residents were not aware of.
” ‘Today, we spotted the fire exit, which was not used,’ said Achintya Mukherjee, Divisional Engineer, Fire Services. ‘When we asked for the floor plan so we could trace the fire exit, the KMC said they do not have one.’ ”
From the Times of India:
“All escape routes were quickly cut off. The only hope then was the terrace — which the 18 tried to reach — but the gates were shut to ‘protect’ five-six mobile towers on the roof. The keys are with caretaker Rama Shankar Singh, who said he could not go up during the fire to unlock the gates.
All escape routes were quickly cut off for the 18 young men and women seeking a refuge from the inferno engulfing their Stephen Court offices. The only hope then was the terrace — which the office employees tried to reach — but the gates were shut to ‘protect’ five-six mobile towers on the roof. The keys are with caretaker Rama Shankar Singh, who said he could not go up during the fire to unlock the gates.”
And a news report from NDTV:
The next time you feel like complaining about the effort and expense we go to for code compliance, hug your local code official. And your fire door inspector. 🙂
Photo Credit: PTI News.