A major fire broke out on the second floor of the teaching block at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the capital Saturday evening. While no casualties were reported, the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) dispatched at least 42 fire tenders and 200 firefighters to douse the flames. The fire quickly spread to the third, fourth and fifth floors of the block and was largely doused by 11 pm.
Fire Chief Atul Garg said, “A call was received at 4.50 pm; by 6.25 pm, the fire on the second and third floors had been brought under control. The fire broke out in the teaching block… there are a number of doctors’ offices and teaching labs there.”
Garg said the cause of the fire can only be determined once cooling operations are over.
Rajinder Atwal, Additional Divisional Officer, DFS, said: “The fire travelled to the fourth and fifth floors through the shaft where the electric cables are.”
As the fire raged for several hours, panic struck the hospital and patients from the emergency department were asked to move to Safdarjung Hospital, said a source at AIIMS. Patients from other wards were also moved later.
At 9.30 pm, two teams of the National Disaster Response Force also reached AIIMS. “Around 70 personnel are deployed in case the building weakens, as it is such a major fire. It’s a precautionary measure… personnel are carrying self-contained breathing apparatus. In such situations, wind can play havoc and the fire can spread quickly… since it’s a hospital with inflammable chemicals, we have to be ready in case more evacuation is needed,” said P K Srivastava, NDRF commandant.
AIIMS said in an official statement: “There has been no loss or damage to life. As a precautionary measure, patients admitted in adjoining AB Wing were moved to other wings. They will be moved back by tomorrow.”
It added that Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan monitored efforts towards extinguishing the fire on-site and also regarding patient care. Vardhan also discussed the need to conduct a special fire audit of the hospital.
Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS, said, “No fire at any ward. The emergency lab has been affected. There were no patients inside.” During the day, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “The fire in AIIMS will be brought under control at the earliest. Fire Service trying its best to extinguish the fire.”