Ground Report: Inoperable extinguishers, blocked staircase at Swapnalok complex caused six deaths

Victims raced to washrooms, hoping to use water to extinguish the fire

By Anoushka Caroline Williams  Published on  17 March 2023 3:43 PM GMT
swapnalok complex

Fire accident at Swapnalok Complex in Secunderabad. 

Hyderabad: Hyderabad: A major fire accident broke out in Swapnalok Complex, Secunderabad on March 16 at 7:20 pm, killing six people. The building is 89 years old, at a height of 32 meters with a cellar, a ground floor, and eight additional floors. The building owners were prosecuted in 2013, for violation of Fire Prevention and Fire Safety Measures.

The fire originated in an electrical duct due to a short circuit. It caused severe damage on the fifth floor which was occupied by Kedia Infotech Pvt Ltd. The office space had furniture, computer installations, and other items, and the smoke quickly spread throughout the floor. The first and the second floors had trade shops and the rest had offices. Preliminary reports stated that the fire started on the fifth floor and spread to the sixth and seventh floors. It took about an hour to extinguish the fire.

When NewsMeter visited the place, the security guard of the complex Srinivas, who was also the first person to witness the fire said, “On Thursday, at around 6.45 pm, I was at the main gate of Swapnalok Complex when I noticed black smoke coming out of the fifth-floor windows in Block B. I rushed to the basement and told the maintenance personnel to turn off the main power source. Then I called the fire control room.”

Rescue operations

Within 30 minutes, the fire brigade and DRF officials reached the spot and started rescue operations. Due to the massive flames and thick smoke, the Simon Snorkel Ladder, a Hazmat smoke exhauster, and a multipurpose tender from Fire Station Cantonment and Musheerabad were rushed to the fire scene. The Bronto Skylift was pitched against the building’s rear end and the rescue efforts began.

Rescue teams used specialised ladders to remove people from the Kedia Infotech Pvt Ltd office, while teams wearing BA outfits searched all floors for trapped people. Five people were rescued from the fifth floor, followed by five from the building’s terrace, and two from the fourth floor. The 12 were taken to a hospital, where four were treated for minor injuries. One of the victims managed to make his way to the balcony and was rescued by the Bronto Skylift. Minister Talasani Srinivas Yadav spoke to him and narrated their brush with death.

After rescuing the 12 persons, one of the employees informed the officials that six people were missing, and it was suspected that they were stuck on the fifth floor. The fire department entered the structure and found six people unconscious in one of the rooms on the fifth floor.

Speaking to NewsMeter, the locals said, “In an attempt to save themselves, victims raced to small rooms and washrooms, hoping to use water to extinguish the fire. However, they were unable to breathe and began to suffocate as a result of the heavy smoke that filled the rooms.”

Despite the rescue team’s quick response, the victims had already sustained significant damage. They were hauled down and promptly transported to the hospital in an ambulance for medical help, and it was later discovered that they died of suffocation.

All six who died are between 22-23 years of age. The deceased included U Shiva from Medak, Triveni from Khamam, Vennela from Warrangal, K Prameela from Mahububabad, B Shravani from Warangal, and Prashant from Mahubababad. The youth were working in the same complex in different professions and were found trapped at the Kedia Infotech Pvt Ltd office.

Seizing the building

Speaking to the media, Talasani Srinivas Yadav said, “The untimely death of the young people is shocking. We will seize the Swapnalok Complex today or tomorrow. If the owners and organisers of buildings and godowns in Hyderabad are discovered to be violating fire safety laws, a crackdown will be launched.”

He, along with Home Minister Mohammed Mahmood Ali, visited Gandhi Hospital and spoke to the families of the victims.

Ex-gratia announced

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakhs to each of the bereaved families. The government is making arrangements to shift the mortal remains of the deceased to their native places.

Inoperable fire extinguishers

The fire spot was visited by Director General, Telangana State Disaster Response and Fire Services, Hyderabad Y Nagi Reddy.

According to Fire Safety officials, the department would issue notices to the complex officials. “The complex’s fire safety system is not operational. It would have been preferable if the fire safety system had been tested. The stairwell has been filled with garbage, making it impossible for the people to escape,” said a Fire Safety officer.

Six Liabilities found during the rescue mission

1. The firefighting equipment including fire extinguishers at the complex was inoperable.

2. The door to the external stairwell was locked. Firefighters had to break it open to douse the fire and rescue the trapped.

3. The exterior staircase was clogged with worn-out, damaged items and debris.

4. The setbacks (driveways) were obstructed by parked vehicles, causing a delay in parking the Bronto Skylift. To make room for fire trucks, the local police had to remove all the vehicles.

5. Instead of fire doors, the electrical ducts were covered with wooden doors.

6. The fifth-floor corridor was filled with cardboard boxes and scrap items, which are highly flammable.

Advisory by the fire department to prevent fire hazards

1. All buildings must implement fire protection measures in accordance with the national Building Code applicable to the type of building and occupation.

2. Fire fighting systems should be regularly maintained and, if necessary, examined daily. Larger business complexes or facilities should hire fire safety officers and put them in charge of fire safety systems and implementing fire safety drills.

3. The escape/egress route should be kept clean. Staircases should never be locked and should never be utilised as a disposal for trash materials.

4. Automobile parking should be prohibited in the setbacks so that fire vehicles can use them in an emergency.

5. Employees and other occupants should participate in fire drills regularly.

6. Periodic check-ups of electrical appliances and wiring should be done by a licensed/certified engineer.

7. Call 101 in case of a fire emergency without fail.

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