Laboratories of virology, reproductive biology, AIDS; the department of Urology; offices of senior faculty members — with every passing hour on Sunday, the list of facilities at AIIMS severely affected by Saturday’s fire kept growing, along with the realisation that the accident could have taken a more disastrous turn.
While the AIIMS administration is ascertaining the scale of the loss, signs emerged that the damage will run into crores with costly diagnostic equipment, reagents and ice-lined refrigerators housing samples coming under the sweep of the fire. Valuable research papers, computers and laptops were also gutted.
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On Sunday, as cooling operations ended, AIIMS staffers could be seen rolling out trolleys full of files and equipment that could be salvaged.
However, parts of the building could not be accessed due to the extent of the damage.
Later, the Delhi Police Crime Branch sealed the premises.
The virology section of the microbiology department, on the second floor of the teaching block, where the fire started, is the apex referral laboratory of the National Vector Borne Disease Control Program (NVBDCP) for dengue and chikungunya.
It is also the National AIDS Control Organisation’s (NACO) regional HIV reference laboratory for HIV-1 early infant diagnosis (EID) and viral load.
The centre covers Delhi-NCR and Uttar Pradesh, a senior doctor said.
“Had the fire entered the pathology lab on the first floor, it would have been disastrous as the section houses formalin which is highly combustible. The nature of the fire was such that it kept going upwards,” sources in AIIMS said, adding that a security guard in the virology lab first spotted the fire and informed the emergency staff.
“It may have been a Saturday and workload was less, but doctors are stationed in the labs round the clock. So word spread quickly and no time was wasted. But the damage could not be contained much,” sources said.
A large number of PBFs (Peripheral Blood Film) have been destroyed. These samples, which are essentially blood smeared on glass slides, are used to carry out various clinical tests. They are kept in special refrigerators, temperatures of which can be as low as -54 degrees Celsius. Each such refrigerator has storage capacity of up to 250 samples.
“Samples can be taken again. Equipment can also be bought, and in many cases they are readily donated by companies. But the loss is also on account of valuable reagents getting gutted. These reagents are used during clinical tests,” another doctor explained.
Hospital sources also claimed that the administration was repeatedly told about the need to expedite renovation work at the lab medicine department on the first floor. “The ceiling of the department is open and wires are dangling. Thankfully, the fire did not spread here,” they said.
For now, all fresh clinical tests are being carried out at the trauma centre.
The realisation that portions of the affected floors have turned to ashes has also triggered anxiety about the fate of theses papers and other documents, which were mostly stored in the offices of senior faculty members. Till Saturday, there were hopes that many papers could be salvaged.
The fire also swept through multiple seminar rooms on the upper floors, sources said.