A four-storey building in Parimal Garden area of Ahmedabad, which houses a paediatric super speciality hospital and three health care centres, had to be evacuated of as many as 150 patients and 300 other people after a fire broke out on Monday afternoon. Nobody was injured.
Fire safety officers said the blaze began from the canteen of Apple Super Specialty Child Hospital, which ironically is called “Flames”, on the terrace of Dev complex around 12.45 pm. It took fire officers and nearby residents a total of 45 minutes to douse the fire.
“We received information around 12.50 pm regarding the fire at a four-storey building in Parimal garden, and three fire tenders reached the spot in the next 10 minutes,” Additional Chief Fire Officer (Ahmedabad) Rajesh Bhatt said.
“The fire was contained within 30 minutes of our arrival. The fire did not reach the fourth floor of the hospital, and all the patients were rescued without injuries.”
He said the fire seems to have started after a gas cylinder exploded on the terrace of the building where the canteen is located. The flames quickly spread to the fibre shed of the canteen’s roof.
“It was because of sheer negligence that the fire broke out. Many commercial LPG cylinders were kept in the canteen area on the terrace,” he added, saying it would be investigated whether due permission had been obtained to store commercial gas cylinders in the building.
“We have asked the authorities of the Estate Department to check whether the exit passage of the hospital was congested or wide, whether all the fire safety equipment were present at the time, whether the width of staircases were wide enough and whether permission was sought to use a fibre shed as the roof of the canteen,” Bhatt said.
A total of four health care centres — Apple Super Speciality Child Hospital, Aashirwad Child Care Clinic, Cure Sight Laser Centre, Cure Smile Dental Centre and Gips Psychiatric Clinic — along with Mastishk Child Development and Education Centre are housed in the building. A hotel named Madhav is also located on the second floor of the building.
Kamlesh Bishnoi, 30, a native of Mehsana, whose 15-month-old daughter Priyanshu was admitted in Apple Hospital for breathing difficulties, recounted the exact moments when the fire broke out. “I was having lunch in the canteen when I heard a huge explosion. It occurred hardly 10 metres away from me. One of the LPG cylinders had exploded, and the fibre shed of the canteen caught fire. In no time, the fire spread through the entire canteen area and I ran downstairs hurriedly. I picked up my daughter and rushed through the stairs and reached the ground floor. We waited at an eatery for half an hour till the ambulance arrived and my child was shifted to another branch of Apple Hospital in Naroda. Later I remembered that I had left my bags on the building’s terrace in a hurry. When I came back, I realised that I had lost Rs 50,000 cash along with all medical documents and medicines for my daughter,” Bishnoi said.
Dr Parimal Desai of Cure Sight Laser Centre on the third floor of the building was in the middle of an operation when the fire broke out. “I provided 10 fire extinguishers of my own clinic to douse the fire and my son called up the fire department for immediate help,” Dr Desai said. “Seventy out-patients and 30 staff were present in my centre itself at the time. More than 150 patients from all the health care centres and around 300 people from the building were rescued.”
Parents of children admitted in Apple Hospital said that more than 30 patients, along with medical staff and doctors, were present in the hospital when the fire started.
Many of them alleged that the team of doctors and medical staff at Apple Child Hospital were the first to flee when the fire broke out, without providing any assistance to the patients.
“I was in one of the rooms of the hospital where my 11-year-old brother Shivam Chaudhary was admitted for Hepatitis A. As soon as the fire broke out, we carried him out of the building through the staircase. We were made to wait for half an hour outside, after which an ambulance arrived and took Shivam to another branch of Apple Child Hospital in Naroda. However, no doctor, nurse or medical staff was present in the hospital or with the patients. They had left as soon as the fire broke out,” Ritesh Chaudhary, a resident of Mehsana, said.
Similar allegations were made against the medical team of Apple by Kamlesh Bishnoi and another parent who wishes to remain anonymous.
At the start of rescue operations, Additional Chief Fire Officer Rajesh Bhatt wanted to speak to a representative of the hospital to find out the exit routes of the building and other information that would aid the evacuation. But not a single hospital employee could be found.
The Indian Express correspondent is witness to the fact that no representative of Apple Child Hospital returned to the spot even hours after the fire was doused.
One of the directors of Apple Children’s hospital, Naroda branch, Dr Tausif Chhipa told this paper: “Four children, ages ranging from 15 months to eight years, who were admitted in the ICU, have been shifted here. They were admitted for conditions ranging from respiratory problems to infections but all are stable.”
A spokesperson for Apple Hospital issued a statement on Monday evening.
“On the afternoon of 13th May, 2019, Monday, a fire broke (out) at the rooftop of Dev Complex, which houses our hospital on the fourth floor. The rooftop had some discarded materials including some old, broken furniture which, along with the fibre shade used for protection, caught fire that caused heavy smoke from that area. The police and fire dept were informed quickly. Before the fire could (spread to) the floors below, as a preventive measure all infants and child patients were quickly (moved) to a nearby hospital, and they are safe.”