CHENNAI: A massive fire in the dumpyard at Kannadapalayam choked life in Tambaram as intense smoke from the tonnes of waste heap engulfed the residential areas. Many residents even vacated their houses and took shelter with relatives. As the smoke grew acrid, all that the fire fighters could do was to prevent the fire from spreading further.
The ordeal began around 9 pm on Monday when a seemingly minor fire quickly spread over an acre in the sprawling dump yard maintained by Tambaram municipality. “We were literally fighting an insurmountable fire. Even as we poured water and cooled the wastes, fire spread to lower levels in the heap of waste whenever the wind blew,” said a firefighter who took part in the operations since Monday night. However, relief came to the residents and the firefighters when dark clouds hovered above the dump yard and started drizzling.
“The firemen could not do much. How can they cover the fire that is spread to such a huge area? We are hoping that at least the rain will put an end to the smokes,” said K Santhanam, a resident of Mullai Nagar, Kannadapalayam. The smoke which engulfed localities in a 2 km radius of the dumpyard reached even Tambaram railway station and bus terminus. “We are sitting in the office with windows closed from morning. The smoke is so acrid. Most of the employees left office early,” said K Siva Kumar, working in a coaching institute at Tambaram. Due to the dense smoke, vehicles were also diverted from the Chennai Bypass Road for most part of Tuesday. The locals alleged that after dumping wastes indiscriminately in the yard for several decades, the adjoining burial ground has also been encroached now. While the most common reason for such fires is the combustible gases formed under the heaps of waste, Tambaram municipality officials blamed it on a group of people who were taking a funeral procession on Monday night.
“Around 8.30 pm or 9 pm last night, there was a funeral procession and some members who were dancing could have later entered the dumpyard from the burial ground. We suspect that they could have caused the fire. But there are also chances of the fire being caused due to combustible gases from the wastes,” said a municipality official. “It is only the wastes and around 20 per cent of the yard was on fire. Around four fire trucks have been pressed into service since yesterday. The municipality is supplying water to fight the fire,” added another official.