HYDERABAD: The residential apartments, commercial complexes, godowns, timber depots, and warehouses in different parts of Greater Hyderabad in recent times become prone to major fire accidents. It is because the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) could not do much to ensure compliance with fire safety norms in the multi-storeyed buildings due to the lack of enforcement staff. As a result, the buildings are turning into towering infernos.
In the latest incident, at least nine people died in a massive fire at a residential building at Bazarghat in Nampally on Monday. The building has no fire safety system in place. The fire initially started on the stilt floor of the building due to the unauthorized storage of chemicals in plastic drums and other inflammable materials including fire rolls. Few others were injured in the incident and they are now under treatment at hospitals. Over 20 persons have been rescued, with 10 of them taken out from the building in an unconscious state.
In the case of the Nampally apartment, the building owner took permission for the stilt plus the first floor about 20 years ago but constructed one stilt plus four floors with 16 flats and regularised the building under the Building Penalisation Scheme (BPS) in 2008. The setbacks in the east side front are nil; the remaining sides are less than one metres, and the building has no fire safety systems in place.
Major fire incidents took place in the city in the recent past where about three persons were burnt alive and several others injured in a major fire accident at Deccan Knitwear Sports Shop, Minister’s Road, Secunderabad near Nallagutta on January 19, 2023.
Six people, including four women, died following a major fire that erupted at a famous Swapnalok complex in one of the busiest areas of Secunderabad on March 16, 2023. Eight people, including a woman staying in a hotel, were killed and a few others were injured, in a midnight fire that originated from an electric bike showroom located below, in the Secunderabad area on September 13, 2022.
A huge fire accident took place in the warehouse of decoration materials in Chikkadpally on February 2, 2023. Ten workers were injured in a blaze at a private scrap godown late on the night of February 12, 2023. The incident occurred at Gaganpahad in Shamshabad on the outskirts of the city.
Though several fire incidents took place in the city this year, no loss of lives was reported. Despite many cases of fire accidents, the GHMC has not ensured safety norms compliance by the owners of the buildings in the city. After a massive fire incident in the Deccan Knitwear Sports Accessories complex in January this year, the State Government has decided to conduct fire safety audits of high-rise buildings in Hyderabad and other cities in the state.
Even after a number of tragic fire incidents that took place in the city, GHMC could not make much headway in checking fire safety arrangements in various godowns, warehouses, timber depots, and commercial establishments across the city. Many buildings lack adequate fire-fighting infrastructure and the equipment installed at other buildings fails to work during crucial times due to the lack of maintenance.
The rules require the installation of necessary equipment as per the height of buildings, including underground or overhead water static tanks, automatic sprinklers systems, first-aid hose reels, proper fire extinguishers in working condition, automatic fire detection and alarm systems, alternative exit way and others.
As per the fire services rules, fire safety-related equipment should be put in place and a No Objection Certificate (NOC) should be obtained from the department concerned for the buildings above 15metres in height. As there is no such provision for buildings below 15 metres in height, owners and builders of commercial complexes are not installing fire safety equipment.
In many cases, the builders are installing firefighting safety equipment as per the national building code applicable to the type of the building and occupancy to obtain No Objection Certificates (NOC). However, after obtaining NOC, the building owners are not maintaining the fire fighting systems periodically and equipment is getting rusted and becoming dysfunctional.
When fire incident takes place, they fail to function, causing immense damage to the buildings and loss of lives. The larger business complexes or establishments should appoint fire safety officers in similar terms to security staff but this is not happening.
As per the fire services rules, fire safety-related equipment should be put in place and No Objection Certificate (NOC) should be obtained from the department concerned for the buildings above 15 metres in height. As there is no such provision for buildings below 15 metres in height, owners and builders of commercial complexes are not installing fire safety equipment.
26 fire-related complaints received during Diwali
On Sunday night, the Enforcement, Vigilance, and Disaster Management (EVDM) wing of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) received a total of 26 fire-related complaints from various locations across the city. The Disaster Response Force (DRF) teams, stationed at different places in the city, responded to these complaints as needed.
The complaints came from areas including Jeedimetla, Bharat Nagar, Yousufguda, Salarjung Museum, Jiyaguda, Begum Bazar, Kothapet, Balapur, Jubilee Hills, Miyapur, Kondapur, KPHB Colony, Nallakunta, Nagole, Upperpally, Manikonda, Sanathnagar, Kushaiguda, Punjagutta, Nallagatla, Rajendra Nagar, Chilkaguda, Ganga Bowli, and other regions.