|(Top) Parents and students outside South Point High School in Ballygunge Place after the fire on Tuesday. (Below) Students wait on the courtyard. (Sanat Kr Sinha)
Over 5,000 children were evacuated from their classrooms at South Point High School on Tuesday afternoon following a fire in the power meter room on the ground floor.
Officials of the Ballygunge Place institution said smoke was noticed around 2.20pm in the meter room adjacent to the administrative office and it reached the upper floors within minutes.
Students of Class XI and XII were the first to be brought out of their classrooms and assembled on the courtyard. Soon after, students of classes VI to X were evacuated and taken to the courtyard and the ground floor of the school’s annexe.
The school officials said they managed to douse the fire with extinguishers.
The students were allowed to return to their classes about 30 minutes later when the fire department officials gave the safety clearance. Classes were suspended for the day a while later.
“We were writing our English unit test paper when a teacher came rushing to our class and asked us to pack our bags and come out immediately. She told our English teacher a minor fire had been noticed at the meter box. She said we should not panic and come out of the class to the courtyard in an orderly manner,” said Debanjali Goswami, a student of Class VII, section CC.
She said power went off and some students sitting near the window could see smoke outside the building even before the teacher arrived and broke the news.
An SMS from the school alerted parents about the fire and many rushed to the school to check.
“I received a text message around 3.15pm informing about a minor fire at the school. It said the students were safe and we should not panic. I tried calling the school but the phone was busy. Fifteen minutes later, there was another text which said classes have been suspended for the day and we should collect our children at the earliest,” said Ajanta Das Sil, mother of a Class VII student.
Teachers asked the students of classes XI and XII to help maintain order. Some of the juniors apparently got injured while rushing down the stairs.
“I tried to run down the stairs but hit a collapsible gate and fell down. I hurt my left ankle,” said Priyankush Dutta, a student of Class VI CD.
The school authorities maintained that no one was injured.
“We used our fire equipment to douse the flames in the meter room within 15 minutes,” said a senior official of the school. A fire tender arrived shortly and an inspection was carried out, he added.
“It looks like a short circuit in the meter box. The school authorities had doused the flames with their own equipment before our officials reached the spot,” said a fire officer.
Firefighters, cops and CESC officials inspected the school premises and declared it safe. Work on the burnt power meter started around 4pm.