The horrific fire incident in a coaching centre located in a multi-storey building in Surat on Friday, in which 20 students were killed, has left the entire country grief stricken.
The incident has once again brought to light the fact that how easily fire safety norms are flouted. City Spidey on Saturday did a reality check of the markets in Dwarka and found several irregularities and violations of safety guidelines that make these markets nothing less than a disaster waiting to happen.
No Fire-Fighting System
According to the rules, a shop with area above 100 square feet should have an underground fire-fighting arrangement while shops with lesser area should have small extinguishers.
However, most of the shops we visited, big or small, did not have any arrangements. In fact, most of the people were unaware of any such rules. A handful of shop-owners had fire extinguishers in their shops. But no common arrangements were in place for the buildings.
RK Singh, a resident of Sector 4, said, “Neither DDA nor MCD are bothered about fire safety guidelines. It’s a scary situation.”
Violation of Rules
The markets in Dwarka have faulty infrastructure. A few minor fire incidents have been reported in the past from restaurants and eateries located at the ground floor due to short circuit. Some incidents happened because of naked wires and electricity boxes placed in the stairs.
According to the DDA building bye-laws for MLUs, cooking is not allowed on the ground floor while one can find hundreds of such shops in the sub city.
The worst affected are markets in Sectors 4, 6, 10 and 12. The lanes of these markets have rows and rows of such markets operating unabatedly.
Poor Design and Infrastructure for Evacuation
In almost all the markets, evacuation or emergency escape passages are either missing or closed because of encroachment. The roof tops are mostly locked and the free passage from one building to another are closed.
People at Sector 11 market shared that during one such fire incident that happened in staircase because of open naked wires, locals helped students studying in a coaching institute by taking them to roof top by breaking open the lock.
A civil engineering expert, Gautam Kumar, said, “Every building is designed with an emergency escape. Also in markets, dedicated places for fire tenders are earmarked and reserved for emergency. It is the responsibility of civic bodies and police to make sure that these places are always kept free.”
Violation of NBC Guidelines
According to the National Building Code (NBC), no electrical fittings should be placed in staircases. Also, no shop, store or other posing fire risk shall open directly into staircases. No electrical shaft, AC ducts or gas pipe shall pass through or open in the staircases. Stairs should be supplemented by lifts and ramps.
But all these rules are blatantly violated here. Expert on the subject and an engineer, Anuj Sinha, said, “The topic should be taken seriously. Electrical fittings in the staircases can not only lead to fire incidents but can also make evacuation difficult. The staircases in markets have faulty designs and are narrow than NBC prescribed parameters.”