Fire rages through a residential-cum-commercial hub at Majorkhul in Imphal city on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos
Imphal, June 24: Normal life was thrown out of gear as a fire raged through a commercial-cum-residential hub in the heart of the city today, testing Manipur’s fire-fighting efficiency.
The state fire department had to pull in fire tenders stationed in the four valley districts to bring the blaze, that broke out in a house at Majorkhul, a business hub of the city, under control. More than 10 fire tenders fought the blaze for more than four hours.
The cause of fire was believed to be short circuit, leading to explosions of cooking gas cylinders. No one was, however, injured.
“First we heard an explosion. We thought it could be a bomb. Then we saw smoke billowing out of one house and we realised it was fire which spread quickly,” a resident said.
Majorkhul, used by traders as storerooms of their items, is next to a VIP colony where official quarters of ministers and MLAs are located. The state MLA guesthouse could be saved though a house next to it was destroyed.
The fire that began around 11.30am reduced two shops, more than 10 houses and several storerooms to ashes. The exact amount of property loss is yet to be assessed. However, official sources estimated that it could be in terms of crores. The fire also left many homeless.
The magnitude of the fire was so huge and unprecedented in the city that normal functioning of the state government came to a halt during the firefight as ministers, senior police officers and officials rushed to the site to supervise it. Led by chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh and deputy chief minister Gaikhangam, who is also the home minister, Speaker Th. Lokeshwar Singh, ministers, MLAs and leaders of political parties rushed to the spot.
Ibobi Singh, Lokeshwar Singh and social welfare minister Akoijam Mirabai Devi watched the inferno from the rooftop of a nearby safe building. Traffic congestion and narrow bylanes made fire-fighting more difficult, firefighters said.
“It is a very unfortunate incident. Because of the narrow lanes, the firefighters faced hurdles in reaching the site on time and positioning themselves to spray water,” Ibobi Singh said after watching the inferno for about an hour.
He said the incident was a lesson that prompted the government to think of planning in the city to make fire-fighting or fighting disasters easier.
“We will now consider a plan for making all areas of the city more accessible to fire tenders or rescue teams in the event of natural calamities. Residents of the city should cooperate with the government,” Ibobi Singh said.
Gaikhangam admitted that because of shortage of manpower and equipment the damage was extensive.
“We will now consider recruiting more staff and upgrading equipment,” he said.
During the firefight, the Kangla stretch of National Highway 2 was closed to traffic as the fire tenders used water from the Kangla moat.