At Mantralaya, firemen fought alterations, blocked passages
With the recovery of two more bodies today from the sixth floor of the Mantralaya building, the death toll in the blaze that swept through the seven-storey structure on Thursday climbed to five.
Fingers were being pointed at firemen for delaying the start of firefighting operations butt what was being left unsaid was that the layout plan of the Mantralaya that was handed over to the Fire Brigade was more than 30 years old. The plan was completely different from what firemen were staring at — over the years, innumerable internal alterations and additions had made along passageways and inside offices.
Windowpanes of at least 20 cars with beacon lights, parked along the approach road inside the complex, had to be smashed so that they could be moved manually or towed to make way for fire engines.
A senior Fire official involved in firefighting operations said that firemen and policemen used fire fighting equipment to smash the panes and lower the hand-brakes.
"We had to push the cars manually since we could not find their drivers. Precious time was lost in doing this, the fire spread quickly and turned into an inferno," he said.
These cars had red beacons, used by ministers and senior IAS officials, as well as amber beacons that IPS officers use.
The absence of fire-resistant doors and concrete partitions in cabins and the presence of inflammable material fuelled the spread of the fire.
Firemen found that there was no passageway for fire engines to enter the interior section of the building. "We positioned a total of eight snorkels on all four sides externally but the internal portion around the central courtyard was unreachable. As we could not bring the engine here, firefighters had to enter with hose pipes manually. But beyond a certain point, the extreme heat and smoke checked movements. This is the portion where fire kept raging the longest," the official said.
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