Tiruchy is renowned for its temples. M S Thanaraj visits three of popular shrines in the city and finds the vast Srirangam Temple way ahead of the others in implementing fire safety and other emergency measures. Unfortunately, Rock Fort lags behind in this aspect
Keeping things in order, this structure raises the bar
Even before the Madurai Meenakshi Temple incident, the Srirangam Temple management had taken several precautionary measures to handle fire-related emergencies. No wonder UNESCO lauded its effort through Asia Pacific Award of Merit 2017.
With the temple seeing nearly 25,000 to one lakh visitors per day, the temple had always been well equipped to deal with emergencies including fire, drainage of excess water and medical situations. It is said that Srirangam is the only temple to have Automatic Electronic Defibrillator for medical emergencies.
But the only concern could be that it lacks trained fire safety personnel. Though the temple has employed five, only two are permanent. P Jayaraman, Joint Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment of Srirangam Renganathar temple, told Express, “Even before the Madurai Meenakshi Temple incident, we had taken precautions to prevent emergency situations. We had already placed about 24 fire extinguishers in all places with electric mains and also in the temple kitchen area. Similarly, fire buckets are also present in all the venues with possibilities of having class A fire."
“During the temple renovation work held in the previous year, all the wirings in the temple were covered with metal casing. If any leakage occurs, the lines will be switched off automatically using the tripping button.” He also added that, with more than 50 CCTV cameras placed across the temple, all the minor happenings are monitored by the control room and if incidents do occur, we intervene.”
Srirangam Ranganathar Temple
Total footfall on ordinary days: 25,000 to 50,000
On special days (Vaikunta Ekadesi): 1 lakh to 1.5 lakh
Total area of the temple: 156 acres
Hanging wires, stalls within rock safety measures
Unprotected wires hanging from walls and shops on the premises make Thayumanavar Temple vulnerable to fire accidents. Added to that, the temple also lacks basic safety equipment for preventing such accidents.
Despite the fears caused by the Madurai Meenakshi Temple incident, the Thayumanavar Temple management has failed to take steps to protect the temple and pilgrims in case of fire.
Most of the electric wires are exposed in either side of the stairway leading to the Uchipillayar Temple. There are not many fire extinguishers and there is only entrance for reaching the temple, which makes quick evacuation of people in case of fire difficult.
Speaking to Express, a senior official from the safety department, said: “Compared with other temples in the city, the Rock Fort Temple poses more danger. The primary difficulty is the height of the temple, and in case of an emergency, pumping water from the bottom is very difficult. And the second is that encroachments of roadside shops has made it difficult for even a car to navigate freely, and so moving fire tender vehicles could be restricted during emergency situations.” He added that the overhead water tank on top of the Rock Fort can be used to build a good system to fight fires.”
Attempts by Express to contact the Thayumanavar Temple Assistant Commissioner went in vain.
It is being said that the temple sees about 1,000 visitors per day for viewing the city from the top of the Rock Fort Temple and also for darshan of the deity.
Rock Fort temple
Total footfall in ordinary days: 1,000 to 5,000
In special days: 10,000 to 20,000
600 AD: Exact year of construction unclear; located on 83 metres (272 ft) high rock
Shops inside only blemish in this medieval temple
One of the famous temples in the State, Samayapuram Mariamman temple, though largely prepared for fire emergencies, lags behind in certain aspects.
With several fire extinguishers, barricades and CCTV cameras, the temple management is quite prepared. And currently, it is in the process of installing 30-tonne air conditioners in the sanctum of the temple’s main deity.
Construction activities which began in 2015, are going on, and the base of the Rajagopuram was recently completed. The massive tower, when complete, will have seven stories, with special sculpture and artwork. It is done with funding from the public and is expected to be completed by December this year. Specialists have been engaged for the purpose.
Speaking to Express, Hari, a senior official from Samayapuram Mariamman Temple, said, “Samayapuram is one of the famous temples in the city. We have about 10,000 to 50,000 devotees per day. It was built in thirteenth century, and we are prepared to tackle emergency situations. We have about 52 CCTV cameras and 84 security officials for securing the place. Special arrangements are being made for maintaining the crowd and for preventing major disaster.”
Still, shops situated within the temple premises pose a danger. Moreover, several devotees place ghee lamps quite close to the entrance, which is crowded by shops. The construction activities too pose a danger and there is a possibility of a fire spreading quite fast.
Samayapuram Mariamman temple
Total footfall on ordinary days: 10,000 to 50,000
On special days (Poocherithal and Chithirai car festival): 1 lakh to 1.5 lakh
13th to 17th century
It is said that the temple is constructed around that time but the history is unclear
Source: Samayapuram Mariamman Temple anagement