No safety device at Strand Rd godown, says fire dept; KoPT blames lessees

 Kolkata : 10 June, 2019 (Times of India)

Kolkata: The fire brigade has found serious lapses on the part of Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT), the custodian of the Strand Road warehouse that caught fire on Saturday, and the lessees concerning fire-preventive measures. The century-old warehouse had no fire alarms, water hydrant and sprinklers. A handful of fire extinguishers, which were highly inadequate in number for such a big complex, were found to have expired their shelf-life.

However, the KoPT passed the buck on the lessees. “We kept issuing notices on the lessees on having preventive measures against fire hazards but our alerts seemed to have been ignored,” said a KoPT official. “Frequent fire incidents in Posta-Burrabazar area failed to drive home any awareness. This is where the traders of Bagri Market and Nandaram Market store their merchandise after their arrival from the far-flung areas of the country. Both Nandaram and Bagri markets, from where they run the trade, have very efficient fire-fighting mechanism after the recent fires. But they did not bother about the fire safety of the place where their fortune lies,” said a fire brigade personnel.

The forensic experts, who visited the spot on Sunday, could not collect samples because of simmering heat inside the warehouse. They plan to return on Monday. The fire-brigade personnel, who would now camp there round-the-clock in three or four shifts in a group of 36, kept spraying water to cool-off the place. Fire brigade investigators said that fire audit findings were ignored by both KoPT and its lessees.

Controlling these pockets of fire is a major cause of concern for such warehouses stacked with goods worth a few hundred crores. But the corrugated tin roof with a thick layer of tarpaulin to prevent water from seeping inside is now carrying a massive weight as the debris stored on the roof of the warehouse have tuned three times heavier. A part of the roof has already collapsed, the entire roof might meet the same fate if the debris are not cleared immediately.

According to police, a Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) team will be pressed into action on Monday to clear the debris.

The fire brigade is all set to issue notice to Inland World Logistics Pvt Ltd, which possessed the lease from KoPT to run the 33,000 square feet godown space on the first floor and Paavan Commercial Pvt Ltd and Andaman Public Works department, who ran two separate godowns on the ground floor. Two floors of the gowdown have 70,000 square feet of storage space, where all kind of highly inflammable items — medicines, alcohol, tarpaulin, plastic sheets, cloths, nylon ropes — were stored indiscriminately, said a fire brigade officer.

Since the blaze was all-encompassing, the site of its origin has been destroyed.