An inquiry by the Uttar Pradesh Fire Service officials into the Saturday’s fire at King George’s Medical University’s (KGMU) trauma centre has found that the blaze was caused by short circuit triggered by overheating of the fridge’s stabilizer in the store room, which was packed with medicines. Fire Service Director P K Rao said that the trauma centre, which started functioning in 2004, had never applied for a No-Objection Certificate (NOC). Regarding the cause of the fire, Rao said, “The hospital had to keep the fridge on for 24 hours in order to keep the drugs cool. The fridge’s stabilizer appears to have overheated causing the short circuit. The room was badly damaged by the fire,” he said.
On Saturday, the fire had started inside a room in Disaster/Encephalitis Ward at around 7 pm, engulfing the hospital with thick smoke and causing panic among the patients who were evacuated immediately. The Fire department, which has winded up their inquiry, will submit their report to Lucknow Divisional Commissioner Anil Garg, who is heading the inquiry, by Monday evening or Tuesday morning. The inquiry team will also probe whether the six victims died during the time of evacuation or when they were being shifted to other hospitals.
The records at the fire department revealed that the trauma centre had never applied for an NOC. “We searched through the files and there is no communication regarding any NOC. We doubt it was applied ever,” said A B Pandey, Chief Fire Officer of Lucknow. Rao said the department would ask the state government to make it mandatory for all government buildings to get an NOC before functioning.
Senior officials of the fire department, including Pandey, visited the trauma centre on Monday and held a meeting with the hospital administration. They reportedly found that smoke sensors were not working and both the hydrant system as well as the hose reel were lying defunct. “Hydrant and detection systems were dead and there was no evacuation plan. Since the building was constructed long time ago, it will be difficult to undertake structural changes. We are now working on an alternative plan for evacuation in case of emergency,” Pandey told The Indian Express.
Sources in the Fire department said that in the past few years, the department had given several reminders to the trauma centre, asking them to upgrade their fire-fighting system and also undertake maintenance of the fire arrangements already installed. Fire safety experts have found that during any emergency there is only one staircase in the building whose exit is also inside the building, sources said. So, in emergency, there is no direct exit from the building, they added. Sources said that KGMU had asked the state government’s construction agency, Construction and Design Services, to install a central fire-fighting system at the KGMU Hospital but the trauma centre was not a part of the project. KGMU Registrar Umesh Mishra claimed that the fire fighting system has already been in place at the trauma centre but there was no one who knew how to use it.