Mumbai fires raise questions about fire safety in India

Two deadly fires in Mumbai in the span of a week raise questions about safety measures and fire prevention awareness.

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    A massive fire at a rooftop restaurant in Mumbai killed 14 people on Friday [Anadolu]
    A massive fire at a rooftop restaurant in Mumbai killed 14 people on Friday [Anadolu]

    After a second fatal fire in less than one week in Mumbai killed four members of a single family, including two children, a state official says regulations need to be enforced to make sure buildings across India meet safety standards.

    Thousands of older buildings in India's key financial hub are in disrepair, and safety standards are not being enforced, said VB Sant, director-general of the National Safety Council, a labour ministry body that works on safety issues across the country.

    "This is a very big problem ... emanating from [a] lack of standardisation and lack of regulation," Sant told Al Jazeera.

    "Some of the safety standards we are adhering to were made in the 1960s onwards, which are no longer relevant."

    The blaze at a residential building in the Mumbai suburb of Marol late on Wednesday killed four members of one family, including two children aged 10 and 14, and injured nine others, fire and police officials said.

    An investigation into the cause of the fire is under way.

    The incident comes less than a week after another fire swept through a rooftop restaurant in the city early on Friday, killing 14 people.

    The blaze engulfed the building in less than 30 minutes, local television reports reported.

    Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, said he was "anguished by the fire".

    A fire safety measures act passed in 2006 in the state of Maharashtra, in central India, stipulates that contractors must procure a fire compliance certificate before they can build a structure taller than 15 metres.

    But the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the country's federal audit body, warned last year that fire disasters were possible in highrise buildings, petrol stations, sawmills and firecracker shops, among other places in Maharashtra.

    The group also found that 78 percent of the budget allocated to buying fire safety equipment and rescue vehicles went unused across the state between 2010 and 2015.

    The Mumbai municipality identified 791 buildings that were beyond repair and unfit for people to live in last year. But without other options, many people continue to live in structures that have been deemed uninhabitable.

    Sant said a lack of urgency within the revelant state agencies, coupled with a general lack of fire safety awareness among people in India, has compounded the risk of deadly fires.

    "There is total lack of safety culture in India," he said. "Nobody is really concerned about safety, that's the tragedy."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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