20 hrs of firefight ends with help from sky
IAF Chopper Sprays 8,000L Of Water In Three SortiesSomreet.Bhattacharya@timesgroup.com
The fire that started at a rubber storehouse in Malviya Nagar in south Delhi on Tuesday evening and raged on for 20 hours was brought under control on Wednesday with the extraordinary help of the Indian Air Force. Firemen had to rely on aerial firefighting in which an IAF helicopter dumped water from the air to douse the massive blaze in a scene that Delhiites had mostly seen earlier only in foreign movies and television news reports from abroad, .
It was for the first time in an urban situation in India that the Bambi ops, so called for the Bambi collapsible bucket in which the helicopter carries the water, was being employed. Fire officials said that it took over 20 hours to bring the fire under control mainly because the flames fed on the huge quantity of petroleum products and rubber latex stuffed in the warehouse. Sanjay Saini, owner of the facility, was arrested on Wednesday evening.
Chief fire officer Atul Garg said the flames were initially contained to a single building on the premises, but the wind that started blowing carried embers towards the other similarly stocked warehouses and set them on fire. Fire-fighting was difficult too.
As Garg explained, “The traffic jams on Outer Ring Road were major hurdles since fire engines going back to replenish their water took more than an hour to return. At times, we had to depend on the reserve water in the tankers to fight the flames. Our work was also hampered by the numerous onlookers from the residential colony adjacent to the fire site.”
Later in the night, the fire service called in additional tenders when the inferno began damaging the abutting school and buildings. “Our biggest challenge was to contain the flames since the toxic fumes were spreading in the residential colony,” said a fire officer. “We were also worried that the school building would be engulfed in flames because the wind changed direction towards it.”
Teams from the Delhi Police and Delhi Disaster Management Authority worked hard to evacuate the residential houses around the burning plot.
Around midnight, the fire officers and the south district sub-divisional magistrate decided to seek help from the Indian Air Force.
Accordingly, an Mi-17V5 helicopter conducted a reconnaissance of the affected area. Soon after, the chopper flew in with a Bambi bucket filled with water from the Okhla reservoir and emptied it over the blaze. This had to be repeated twice before the fire could be contained. In all, more than 8,000 litres of water was dumped by the Indian Air Force.
A Delhi Police team later found that the storage area of nearly an acre was stuffed with flammable products and rubber latex imported from Korea and South America. Apart from the warehouse, 13 other buildings in the area were damaged by the fire.
“We are investigating whether the owners of the godown had the permission to store such a huge quantity of inflammable material,” said Romil Baaniya, DCP (South). The cops have a sought a report from South Delhi Municipal Corporation on how a facility dealing in hazardous and highly inflammable material was permitted in a congested locality. Sample of the products found at the storage will be sent for forensic analysis.
The warehouse has been operating at the site for the past three decades and was owned by Saini’s father, Mahavir Saini.
Local residents alleged earlier controversies related to the godown. A year ago, they said, a storehouse worker was caught for molesting a child, but the managers had refused to allow the cops into the premises claiming it to be residential property. A gate had apparently been installed at the entrance of the lane outside the godown to turn it into private property.