What happened at Delhi’s Karol Bagh hotel earlier this week can happen in Jamshedpur’s Sakchi and Jugsalai any day, courtesy acute apathy towards fire safety measures.
Seventeen people, many of them sleeping guests, died at Hotel Arpit Palace in the inferno early on Tuesday. Some were charred to death, some choked on toxic fumes and others were killed when they jumped off the fifth floor to escape the blaze, possibly triggered by a short circuit.
In Jamshedpur, Sakchi and Jugsalai host most of the city’s budget hotels. More than 10 are located in Sakchi and at least seven in Jugsalai. And, all are guilty of dismal compliance with safety; some even grossly oblivious of a mandatory fire NOC.
Sudhir Kanungo, a computer professional from Rourkela, Odisha, who checked out of Hotel Kailash Regency in Jugsalai on Thursday, said he did not sight a single fire extinguisher in the whole six-storey building.
“I had read about the Delhi fire in newspapers and asked the receptionist if they had safety provisions in place, but she fumbled for answers. I had booked the hotel online for a night since I had an interview with an MNC early today (Thursday),” Kanungo said.
When this correspondent paid a visit to Kailash Regency, hotel electrician Hridyanand Kushwaha conceded that there was no fire extinguisher. “We only have a few buckets of sands and an underground water reservoir for emergency situations,” he said.
The Meridian, another hotel in Jugsalai, has three dry chemical extinguishers in the kitchen but none on any of the four guest floors having 24 rooms. Open electrical circuits were a common sight.
A lone fire extinguisher in the hotel kitchen. Picture by Bhola Prasad
“We had fire extinguishers, but these were removed for renovation work. They will be installed soon. The electrical circuit too will be covered,” said hotel manager Rishabh Srivastava.
The situation was no different at Hotel Sagar in Sakchi. Santosh Mishra, a resident of Bokaro who had come for some official work in the city, said he did not see any fire extinguishers.
“I have heard that most hotels in Sakchi do not have fire extinguishers, let alone smoke detectors and sprinklers. We know it is risky to stay, but they are pocket-friendly and best suited for short stays than star hotels in Sakchi and Bistupur that may be complying with fire safety norms,” Mishra said.
Jamshedpur fire station officer Gopal Yadav agreed. “Apart from a few star hotels in Bistupur and Sakchi, more than 90 per cent elsewhere in the city do not have basic fire safety norms. We are helpless. We cannot act without directives from the deputy commissioner or the headquarters (in Ranchi),” he said.
Rajeev Duggal, president of Jamshedpur Hotel and Restaurant Association and owner of The Alcor in Bistupur, admitted violations at many accommodations but promised to take up the matter with hoteliers in the wake of the Delhi mishap, where preliminary probe has suggested unauthorised construction as a root cause of peril.
“The Delhi fire is an eye-opener and we have decided to organise an awareness session on safety norms later this month with all hoteliers, especially those owning property in congested areas like Jugsalai and Sakchi. The big hotels do abide by safety norms and have functional sprinklers, smoke alarm, overhead tanks and adequate number of fire extinguishers. It is our duty to sensitise and guide smaller ones,” Duggal said.
East Singhbhum deputy commissioner Amit Kumar said he would issue a directive for strict compliance of fire safety norms to hoteliers soon.
List of must-haves
Safety advisory from Jamshedpur fire station
- Water tank (ground floor)
- Pump hose riser
- Hose system
- Smoke detector
- Sprinkler system
- Public address system
- Fire alarm
- Wet riser
- Overhead tank
- At least 4-5 fire extinguishers on each floor
- Sprinkler system in LPG storage space and power transformer room