Pause for a serious thought…
Ever since Independence; accidents in malls, theatres, hospitals, schools, buildings, mainly from fires, across the world have caused extensive loss of life and property. Yet hardly any long-term safety measures have been put in place. WHY?
A look-back at some of the major incidents for a broader perspective:
May 28, 2012
Location: Villagio Mall
Casualties: Kills 19, including 13 children
A fire at one of Qatar’s largest malls has killed 19 people including 13 children. While an incident of this size is never to be expected, there is a certain grim lack of surprise that there was such an incident. There have apparently been three fires in the last 18 months at Villagio and Qatar’s other large mall, City Centre, suffered severe damage from a fire only few weeks ago.
What happened is similar to murder because of the lack of safety measures and precautions. Deaths were mainly cause of smoke inhalation. All buildings in the world should abide by safety requirements, and also a special committee nonetheless should be set up to monitor building safety standards.
May 23, 2012
Location: Race Course Towers
Casualties: 100 rescued
The fire began in a duct that houses electricity wires. A short-circuit in the wires led to the fire that enveloped the fourth floor of the oldest commercial complexes in the city.
People sitting in offices and shops below fourth floor managed to rush out of the building in time but those above the fourth floor rushed to the terrace and verandah. Heavy smoke engulfed the staircases making it impossible for people to come down.
Kolkata, West Bengal
December 9, 2011
Location: AMRI Hospital
Casualties: More than 90 people killed and many injured
Over ninety people, most of them patients in sleep, were choked to death in the fire suspected to have been caused by inflammable material stored in the basement of a multi-speciality private hospital.
February 23, 2010
Location: Carlton Towers
Casualties: Claimed 9 Lives; 59 injured
Those images of desperation will be etched in our memory forever. Of people driven by flames and panic to leap off a multi-storey building. Nine persons were killed — most from jumping out — and 59 injured in a blaze that engulfed Carlton Towers,
Soon after the fire broke out, smoke from the cable ducts engulfed the seven-storey building, which houses about 40 offices.
Intensity of the blaze was low, but chaos magnified it with disastrous results. Frenzy gripped the building when people starting running towards the exits. Most could not get out due to thick smoke. While several people on the first and second floors jumped out of windows, several people on the sixth and seventh floors locked themselves in their offices, afraid of being choked.
A short-circuit in the cables in the middle of the building caused the fire.
June 13, 1997
Location: Uphaar Grand cinema in South Delhi.
Casualties: 60 dead; many injured.
The cinema hall, with a capacity of 1,053 people, was packed when the fire broke out. Those on the balcony and the upper lounge were trapped, and many people died of asphyxiation.
The fire was caused by a short circuit in a transformer in the parking area and spread to the upper floors through air conditioning ducts.
In the Uphaar incident, the fire was caused by the spilling of highly inflammable oil from a Delhi Vidyut Board transformer.
December 23, 1995
Location: The market town of Dabwali (Sirsa district).
Casualties: Over 500 people killed, mostly children and their parents; over 300 injured.
The fire broke out in Rajiv Marriage Palace, a private marriage hall, which was used for the Annual Day Function of the DAV School. Nearly 1,200 children, their parents and teachers attended the function. The blaze swept through the entire pandal, which was covered with a synthetic sheet. The casualties were higher because of the stampede and were also asphyxiated. The fire was caused by electrical malfunction.
The above tragedies and many more which have not been cited here as almost everyday something occurs and we are not safe anywhere, is enough a reason for us to pause and wonder.
Malls are a very pleasant way to go shopping, meet friends, have a coffee or a meal and relax in a temperature-controlled and interesting environment.
There are times people just want a good escapist film. When they feel like smelling the popcorn in the air, sink back in their seats as the lights dimmed, sense the largeness of the theatre around them, experience the movie in the company of others. The sheer joy of losing oneself in the rich imagery and story line is easy within the largeness of sight and sound a movie theatre provides.
Going to school brings with it social connections and networks that allow one to access future resources (not just financial, but also relationships). The most important basic is to learn:
1. to read
2. to write
3. to count numbers.
With these three you can:
-you can count money (the most important of all),
-You can read any books, magazines, signboards.etc.
-you can write your income and expenses, etc.
And when we do the above, we go to work (office) which is a path to riches and family life and social stature.
There are times we go to parks, amusement centres, malls with our loved ones to refresh in the weekends or whenever we get time. And sometimes also remain indoors i.e. homes to rest and feel liven.
But the question that arises is: Are we safe? At our own home? In the hospital? In big malls? In public parks? At our work places?
We have a right to feel secured in all these places. But we don’t and we aren’t. All the above mentioned places look beautiful from outside but what goes in its interior is a mystery. We have cheap wires which not just catches fire but emits poisonous gases killing the lot not by the blaze but its fume.
So who is responsible now? Us? The government? The constructors?
Its high time we learn lessons from all our mistakes. And stop playing the blame-game and take action
We must be careful in all our constructions and make sure we use fire retardant cables. All places need to review their fire and safety systems and the integrity of key elements such as staircases, have them independently assessed and audited and then publish the results for everyone to see.
The slimmest of silver linings can, as ever, potentially be seen on the horizon in terms of future improvements in safety, not that this could ever amount to a sliver of comfort to the bereaved. But we must not have any tragedy anywhere anymore. No more. No more…