|A fire fighter tries to douse the flame in the battery room and (above) firemen try to enter the first floor of Indira Gandhi Science Complex
on Wednesday. Pictures by Deepak Kumar
Satyendra Narayan Singh in 1989
Council of Science and Technology
Rs 11 crore
March 21, 1993 by Lalu Prasad
April 1, 1993
on space and solar system everyday
Trial by fire
• Barely minutes after the second show ended, a few blasts
are heard in the
battery room at the southwest corner
on the first floor
• Employees rush to
the battery room and try to put out the
flames with handheld extinguishers and sand. But as the fire goes out of control, they run away
• Other employees escort visitors
out of the planetarium
• Fire fighters arrive at the planetarium
• Fire put out
• Fire started in one of the batteries. Soon, the others too were aflame
• Smoke also filled the air-conditioner room
• Loss: Rs 5 lakh
• Principal secretary, science and technology department, Amita Paul, has called a meeting of fire service officers and planetarium staff on Aug. 22 to review safety measures
• Shows will resume
More than 200 people had a close shave at the Patna planetarium on Wednesday afternoon after a fire broke out in its battery room.
The second show of the day had just ended and the visitors were leaving the facility when the sound of blasts was heard in the battery room of the Indira Gandhi Science Complex. Panic spread among them even though employees of the planetarium tried to douse the flames and escort the visitors out of the premises.
A major tragedy was, however, averted as firemen arrived within 10 minutes and the flames were doused in another 10-15 minutes. By 3pm, firemen declared that the fire was out but it would take another two to three hours to clear out the smoke.
The planetarium would remain closed on Thursday on account of Independence Day. Shows would resume on Friday. Amita Paul, principal secretary, science and technology department, has called a meeting of planetarium officials and fire department officers on August 22 to review the security arrangements.
The Indira Gandhi Science Complex, situated on Bailey Road near the Income Tax roundabout, was opened to the public in April 1993.
Besides the planetarium, the sprawling complex with a neatly manicured garden in front of it also houses a branch of the UCO Bank, the offices of Art Council and remote sensing of the department of science and technology. It hosts four 45-minute shows on the solar system and space in its theatre on the first floor. The planetarium was also the venue for the Patna Literature Festival in March this year.
It was business as usual at the planetarium on Wednesday afternoon, when the blasts were heard from the battery room around 2.45pm.
“The room was closed and thankfully, no one was injured,” said Arvind Singh, the security supervisor at the planetarium. “To prevent a chaos, some of the staff tried to escort the visitors to safety. Others rushed to the battery room, armed with handheld extinguishers and sand buckets, to put out the flames.”
Their valiant efforts were in vain as the fire was soon raging beyond control and the employees were forced to beat a hasty retreat.
“Had the fire started five minutes ago, there could have been a major incident. The battery room is about 20ft away from the theatre where the show had just ended,” said Ashu Raj, a Class X student of JD Girls’ High School, who was on the premises when the fire broke out. “Most of the people were still on the stairs.”
Fire officers arrived within 10 minutes to take charge of the situation.
C. Florian, a fire officer, said five fire tenders arrived at the site within five minutes. “As the office of the fire services is nearby, the fire tenders reached within a few minutes. It took us around 15-20 minutes to douse the flames.”
The battery room was gutted and smoke had filled the air-conditioner room. “It will take two to three hours for the smoke to clear out,” said Florian.
Though there was no casualty, the authorities concerned are on their toes to prevent any such incident in the future. Principal secretary, science and technology department, Amita Paul, who had rushed to the site, said: “It is fortunate that no major incident occurred. The fire started with sparks in one of the 364 batteries and spread to the others in moments.”
The flames destroyed property worth Rs 5 lakh. But the planetarium would be up and running within a day. S.N. Ojha, principal scientific observer, Indira Gandhi Science Complex, said: “The batteries and other equipment would be replaced soon. We would resume shows on August 16.”