A 32-year-old man was charred to death inside his Honda Civic after its engine caught fire and the central locking system jammed the doors,trapping Rajesh Kumar Misra inside the vehicle.
Misra died of 100 per cent burns,despite the fact that the 200-metre-long Indira Gandhi International Airport underpass has eight fire fighting devices along each carriageway.
But on Sunday,at 5.45 pm when the car went up in flames,none of the equipment was working.
Misra remained trapped inside the burning car for 20 minutes and his cries for help drew the attention of passersby and the guard on duty,who tried to use the fire fighting equipment to save Misras life.
The guard pulled out the pipe attached to the fire fighting device,but found that there was no water pressure.
An eyewitness said,The engine of that car caught fire and it went up in flames in no time. We could hear the occupant shouting for help. He was trapped inside as the doors jammed due to the central locking system. My brother and I tried to pull out the pipe from the device installed in the underpass to put out the fire,but we did not know how to operate it. The guard who was posted also came running and opened the lever,but there was no water pressure. None of the devices were working.
The underpass has three water pumps,which supply water to 16 fire fighting devices eight on each carriageway. But none is operational. The fire hydrants lack a notice informing about directions on how to use the fire fighting device. This makes it difficult for a layman to use the equipment in an emergency situation.
When contacted,Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL),the agency that maintains the underpass,shifted the blame to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC),the contracting agency that constructed the underpass.
DIAL said it repeatedly flagged the problem to the agency,but nothing was done.
A DIAL spokesperson said,The underpass was handed over to us unfinished by DMRC. The fire fighting devices have not been functional since the underpass was handed over to us in 2011. We have written to DMRC innumerable times,but have not got any response.
He said in the case reported on Sunday,DIAL had to send fire engines used for fighting aircraft fires to the spot,but it was too late by then.
DMRC spokesperson Anuj Dayal said the underpass was handed over to DIAL in 2011 and the liability period for its maintenance was over. He said now it was the responsibility of DIAL to ensure that everything was in place.
Contractually there is no fault of DMRC if the fire fighting devices are not functional. Two months ago,DIAL had written to us and,as a goodwill gesture,we conducted a joint inspection. Then it was found that two of three pumps were functional and the switch of the third pump had some problem. We then had asked DIAL to get the switch fixed and also told them to get it billed in the name of DMRC. But that was never done.
Fire Chief A K Sharma said the equipment are necessary for tunnels of a specified length. All underpasses do not need to have fire safety devices. In this case,the maintenance agency is responsible for the lapse. The Fire department had sent the fire tenders when they received a call, he said.