A day after four floors of a building in the AIIMS teaching block were engulfed in a major fire, the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) claimed that a large “temporary structure”, which houses diesel generator sets, behind the block hindered fire operations.
DFS Director Vipin Kental told The Indian Express that the structure blocked access to the rear side of the building: “The structure was not there when DFS carried out inspections last year. It is clearly a violation. It mostly houses DG sets.” AIIMS did not respond despite calls and messages seeking a comment.
Kental said the team could access the building from just one side and that firefighters could not station their vehicles near the area due to the DG sets. He added that since AIIMS has several buildings, NOCs are issued separately to them. It could not be immediately ascertained if the affected block had a valid NOC, Kental said. “We will be in a position to confirm Monday,” he said. The block has now been sealed by the Crime Branch of Delhi Police.
Kental also said that modernising the infrastructure on the fifth floor without proper ventilation increased the intensity of fire.
Another fire official said that as per rules, there should be a six-metre gap on all four sides for buildings higher than 15 metres. “In this case, regulations to get a fire NOC are not applicable as the building was built before 1986… but if we had access to the building from more sides, we could have reduced the scale of the fire,” he said, adding that the Crime Branch will investigate this further.
A firefighter who handled operations Sunday said the floors have been completely gutted: “I saw the damage firsthand… There were a lot of obstacles blocking the entries and exits. That could have been avoided.”
On Sunday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal inspected the site along with a teams from DFS and AIIMS. “Fortunately, no life was lost due to swift action by AIIMS… DFS personnel worked hard… Investigations are on to ascertain reasons of fire,” the CM tweeted.