Nine injured as fire breaks out at BBMP office in Bengaluru
According to Additional Commissioner N Sateesh Kumar, benzene used in road construction quality checks may have caused a blast due to a reaction.
BENGALURU: A suspected chemical reaction leading to a blast caused a major fire at Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s (BBMP) quality control cell at the civic agency’s head office at NR Square on Friday evening. Nine BBMP employees sustained burns. Of them, the condition of four is said to be serious.
Eyewitnesses said the fire, which started with a blast, possibly due to a reaction from the benzene stored in the quality control cell, was noticed at 5.15 PM. All the nine injured were in the quality control cell when the blast took place.
According to Additional Commissioner (West) N Sateesh Kumar, benzene used in road construction quality checks may have caused a blast due to a reaction and all the injured were rushed to St Martha's Hospital. Benzene is used to check bitumen quality and is known to be highly inflammable.
Sources in the BBMP told TNIE that the blast could have occurred when benzene was poured to separate bitumen from other aggregates. Now, questions are being raised about the fire safety measures at the cell.
‘Testing a dangerous exercise, done daily’
Benzene was stored on the ground floor of the quality control cell’s ground-plus-one building. However, the quantity of benzene stored there is yet to be verified, although BBMP officials said only a limited stock of bitumen and benzene was stored there, due to which the explosion was small. The employees suffered 35-40 per cent burns. Sources said had the sample size and benzene quantity been high, it could have been catastrophic. “Although testing is done every day, it is a dangerous exercise. Those working in the lab and the BBMP engineers have been requesting ever since the lab was set up to shift it to another location. But it was never done. There is also no knowledge of how many litres of benzene solution was stored and the other flammable items in the lab at the time of the blast,” a source said.
“Quality check of road samples is done on a daily basis at the lab. Random road samples are taken and testing is done. Never has such a blast happened. The quantity of benzene poured could have been higher than required. While lighting the matchstick things must have gone wrong, leading to an explosion,” the source said. The injured have been identified as Sivakumar, chief engineer; Kiran, executive engineer; Santosh Kumar, executive engineer; Vijayamala, executive engineer; Sridhar, assistant executive engineer; Siraj Ahmed, first division clerk; Jyoti, operator; Srinivas, project management consultant; and Manoj, data entry operator.
BBMP Chief Commissioner Tushar Girinath said, “The injured were rushed to St Martha's Hospital. After first aid, they were shifted to Victoria Hospital’s burns ward.” He said inspectors of the electrical department will probe the reasons for the fire.
Dr Ramesh Krishna, dean and director of Victoria Hospital, said, “There are some deep burns and we cannot say everything is okay. Out of nine victims, two are women. Three have severe facial burns.”
Meanwhile, the cell has been sealed for the forensic science laboratory team’s investigation. A case has been registered at Halasuru Gate police station.
CM, DYCM visit victims
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar enquired about the fire at the BBMP head office with Bengaluru City Police Commissioner B Dayananad and BBMP Chief Commissioner Tushar Girinath the moment they landed at HAL airport from Belagavi on Friday evening. Both were rushed to Victoria Hospital’s burns ward. After seeing the injured BBMP officials, the CM ordered the injured to be shifted to the trauma care ward.
Prahalad to probe
Engineer-in-chief BS Prahalad was appointed to conduct an internal technical inquiry into the cause of the fire accident at BBMP’s Quality Assurance Laboratory cell. As per the order, he shall also suggest suitable technical and infrastructural measures to avoid such incidents in future. He can also take the opinion of experts in the field to set up safe laboratories. The report is to be submitted on or before August 31.
Quality Control Cell to be shifted
Reacting to reports of the Opposition taking a dig at the fire incident and doubting the government, DyCM DK Shivakumar said, “Let then say what they want. Our aim is best treatment for the injured victims. There will also be a probe. We are now contemplating shifting the Quality Control Cell.”
Major fire in 2011
A major fire broke out at the BBMP head office in 2011 in which files pertaining to works worth Rs 1,539 crore were destroyed. After that CCTVs were installed at the head office.