PANIC SPREAD at the Pune Railway Station on Monday afternoon after bleaching soda and floor cleaning acid got mixed, resulting in smoke on Platform No 1. The liquids were stored by the housekeeping contractor in a room on the platform. It took the Railway Protection Force (RPF) about half an hour to control the situation. The incident took place near the General Waiting Area close to the parcel office towards Mumbai end of the Platform No 1, around 11.50 am.
Some of the eyewitnesses attributed the initial spark to a short circuit of the batteries stored in the room. Manoj Jhanvar, public relations officer (PRO), Pune, said, “It’s not clear how the acid and the bleaching powder got mixed but it caused smoke in the room, which later spread to the sitting area too. There was some panic but the RPF personnel controlled the situation and doused the smoke by pouring water. The fire brigade was called but the situation was brought under control before the fire tenders arrived.”
Harsha Shah, an activist who heads the Railway Pravasi Group, raised the issue of fire-readyness of the Pune Railway Station. She alleged that there was no convenient route of access for a fire tender on the railway premises in case of emergencies.
“There was big fire in November 2014, in which the entire women’s dormitory, CMO of the Army Unit as well as resting rooms for Government Railway Police, were gutted. Three years have passed but they have still not learnt a lesson. There has been no improvement in the fire fighting infrastructure at the station. There’s no easy access to platforms for fire tenders to enter. All the routes are either too narrow or have been blocked… Situation is worse for other five platforms, as there’s no way a fire tender can reach them. God knows what would happen if a fire breaks out at, say, platform numbers 4 or 5,” she said.
She added that localised fire-fighting equipment is nowhere to be seen on the platforms. “It’s a must and should be inbuilt. Such things make the Indian Railways’ promises of making Pune Station a ‘world class facility’ seem hollow,” said Shah.
Prashant Ranpise, chief fire officer, Pune Municipal Corporation, said there was no way fire tenders could enter the station. “You have to park the fire tenders outside, in the porch, and carry the the hoses and equipment inside,” he said.