Workers clean up Mani Square before before opening the gates to the public. (Sanat Kr Sinha)
A fire broke out at the Mani Square mall on the EM Bypass in the early hours of Wednesday but it was quickly brought under control before any real damage was done.
Fire officers, however, said the blaze could have had serious consequences and the fire-fighting effort would have become much more difficult had it broken out a few hours later, after the mall had opened for business.
A few minutes before 5am, some guards engaged by the mall detected smoke at the rear end of Uni Style Image, a 1,000sq ft garments store on the first floor.
The guards alerted the fire brigade, disconnected the store’s power supply and rushed towards the fire with extinguishers, said witnesses.
“When we arrived at the spot, sprinklers were in motion and had restricted the blaze from spreading,” said a divisional fire officer.
The fire department despatched 10 engines, of which only three were utilised because the mall’s in-built fire safety system had done its job.
Though the exact cause of the blaze could not be ascertained, fire officers said a short circuit could have sparked it.
“We have asked the mall authorities to get their internal electrical wiring checked and sent a note to CESC to carry out an inspection,” the officer said.
“After the fires at Stephen Court and AMRI Hospitals, Dhakuria, we do not take any chances,” the officer added.
Fire officers said the fire preparedness of the mall was “satisfactory” but they also admitted that fire-fighting and rescue operations would not have been easy had the fire broken out after 10am, when the mall is opened to the public.
“The central air-conditioner, along with other electric gadgets, would have been switched on. That could have helped the fire to spread. It could also have caused a stampede,” the officer said.
The blaze was doused by 7.05am but the mall could not be opened to the public before 1.30pm. Staff members of various stores and outlets in the mall who had reported for morning duty had to wait outside. Those who had come to catch the morning shows at the multiplex had to return.
“Lots of water used to douse the flames had accumulated on the first and ground floors. We could not have opened the mall before cleaning the floors. We also requested the multiplexes to cancel their morning shows,” said Sudarshana Ganguly, the senior general manager of the mall.