The firemen were initially unaware it was a Covid-19 facility. Firefighters of Vijayawada Fire Station, located about 1.5 km from the hotel, reached the spot within four minutes of getting a call.
Krishna district Fire Officer M Sreenivas Reddy said the SOS came in at 5:09 am. “The first engine and firemen were there at 5:13 am. The ground floor lobby and a portion of the first floor were afire. They called for backup from nearby stations. Within minutes, five engines and 43 personnel were there,” Reddy said.
“By the time we reached, the ground floor lobby was inaccessible. After assessing that it was a major fire, we sought help from fire stations at Autonagar, Ajit Singh Nagar and Kothapeta. We started hosing from one side and put up ladders to reach the higher floors. By that time, a few patients had climbed out of windows and stood on a landing. We tied ropes around their waists for safety and they climbed down,’’ said K Naresh, Fire Officer, Vijayawada Fire Station.
Naresh said as he and his team started the operation, officials informed him that the people inside were Covid-19 patients. “We were a little concerned but their lives were at risk, so we plunged into the operation. We broke panes and went into rooms. Many patients were in shock,” Naresh said.
Reddy said the fire broke out near a staircase, making entry difficult. “Thick smoke was coming out of the entrance and there was no other staircase or fire escape. Firemen who tried to go through the smoke had to rush out. After that, we used ladders.’’
The fire official said nine of those who died were on the second floor. “Out of the 10 dead, seven died due to the smoke inside their rooms and two died in the corridor. One person died of injuries on the first floor. We rescued 23 people, including 21 Covid patients,’’ the official said.
All 43 firemen who were part of the rescue operation have been sent to 14-day quarantine.
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