The trees were planted long back. The fruits are coming now. At least 21 students died in a massive
fire in a commercial building in Surat on Friday, 24 th May. The fire that broke out in that commercial
building in Surat was caused by short-circuit, sources said. There were more than 50 students in the
tuition class when the tragedy occurred, the sources added. The students were attending their
tuition class when the fire engulfed the area, supposedly due to a short circuit. Around ten students
trapped on the third and fourth floor jumped from windows to save themselves from fire and
smoke. Many were rescued and sent to hospital.
Several students were seen jumping off a commercial complex after it caught fire, officials said.
Visuals on TV channels showed students jumping off the third and fourth floor of the building. Locals
were seen helping in the rescue operation to save stranded students as well as other occupants of
the four-storey building.
The fire engulfed the third and fourth floor of the Taxshila Complex here, the official said. A fire
official said 19 fire tenders and two hydraulic platforms were pressed into service to douse the fire.
From Upahaar to Kamala mills and now Surat, the sins of the past are coming home to roost one by
one. Lack of uncluttered exit routes, absence of proper firefighting equipment, non-implementation
of every damn ground rule of fire safety seems to be more the norm than the exception. But the real
tragedy is that no lessons are learnt. People still believe saving money on equipment and exigency
paraphernalia such as emergency lights, glow signs, first aid kits, extinguishers etc. is smart money
management. And paying off people to get spurious licenses and permits is pure economic genius.
The more worrying thing is that the culture is still being carried on widely. There does not seem to
be a great move away from the casual approach to fire safety even where newer constructions are
concerned. Undoubtedly, thanks to the media outreach and powerful mediums like social media,
people are indeed coming around and awareness has increased.
PM Narendra Modi was quick to communicate his condolences on the horrific tragedy. Union Home
Minister Rajnath Singh expressed his condolences to the victims of the fire tragedy in Surat. "Deeply
saddened by the loss of precious lives due to fire in Surat. My thoughts are with the families of the
deceased. I pray for the speedy recovery of the injured", Mr. Singh said in a statement. Gujarat Chief
Minister Vijay Rupani said about 16 children were under treatment in Surat hospital. Meanwhile, BJP
president Amit Shah too expressed his condolences over the fire tragedy. "Deeply anguished by the
loss of lives due to a tragic fire accident in Surat, Gujarat. My condolences with the bereaved
families. I pray for the speedy recovery of those injured. I urge our karyakartas of BJP Surat unit to
assist the people in need" Mr. Shah said in a statement.
The building was reportedly not equipped with fire safety equipment. Meanwhile, Chief Minister
Vijay Rupani ordered an inquiry to be conducted by the urban development department. Mr Rupani
also announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the family of the deceased.
SO WHAT WENT WRONG? WELL, ABOUT EVERYTHING
While surfing through news channels, we saw bits and pieces regarding the tragedy that painted a
dismal picture overall. We found out that the cardinal sin was that the construction had only one
entry and exit point. We found out that fire- fighting equipment was absent. One channel pointed
out the home truth that smoke causes more deaths than fire itself in such situations and since
smoke generally travels upwards it was wiser to crawl to safety UNDER the smoke mass and avoid
choking to death. But then not only few know this even fewer are inclined to actually follow that rule
when in a state of panic.
We also knew that the building was actually marked and notified for noncompliance with fire safety
norms but the authorities stopped short of taking action to force a correction.