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ANDHRA FIRE TRAGEDY: SAFETY NORMS THE CASUALTY… AS ALWAYS

 

VIJAYAWADA, August 9: At least 11 patients including two women died and several were feared trapped when a fire accident took place at a hotel converted into Covid Care Centre by a private hospital in Vijayawada early in the morning on Sunday. This comes close on the heels of a similar fire accident in Gujarat in a Covid care centre that had claimed at least eight lives a week earlier.

 

It has been a collective human nature of sorts with us that we have been negligent about basic safety issues and remained in a state of denial. Most accidents and mishaps that happen around us are found to be, in hindsight, results of gross human negligence or carelessness rather than acts of God or unfortunate incidents not caused by us.

Every time we analyze a tragedy after it has occurred and drawn blood, we find lapses and errors in administration or similar man made causes behind the occurrence in question. The recent tragic fire in a hospital in Andhra Pradesh is the most recent déjà vu moment that proves-once again- that the more things change the more they remain the same.

There can be little doubt that the overwhelming impact of the corona scare has muted most other topics and even coffee table conversations or drawing room chats seem to end up veering around to the ‘C’ word. But there is the need to discuss this tragedy separately even though, ironically, it occurred in a corona care centre.

According to the preliminary reports, there were over 30 Covid-19 persons being treated at the centre which employed a dozen medical personnel when the fire accident happened at Swarna Palace Hotel at around 5 am on Sunday. “There were 43 people in the hotel that was turned into a Covid-19 facility, of whom 30 were Covid-19 patients,” said the Andhra Health Minister.

Several fire tenders and ambulances were pressed into action to bring the flames under control and to shift the patients to nearby hospitals, even as the inpatients suffered severe suffocation caused by the heavy smoke inside the hotel rooms.

Some patients, medical staff, and hotel employees were seen jumping out from the second and third floors of the five-storied hotel, even as the fire brigade rescued some 17 patients from the hotel.

The Covid-19 patients were being treated on the third, fourth, and fifth floors of the hotel, which apparently caught fire due to an electric short-circuit on the first floor and flames spreading quickly to other floors.

No prizes for guessing that fire safety norms, exigency protocols and everything mandatory for a facility of that kind was absent when the tragedy struck. Hence the horrific result. Families of the deceased meanwhile, demanded action against the management of the hotel and the hospital for ignoring the safety of patients.

There were obviously no emergency lighting or path finding tools in place as per this telling statement of one of the patients trapped there, “I didn’t know which way to go, thick black smoke engulfed the place and finally, I broke open the window and sat on the sill, screaming ‘help me, help me. After I came to my senses, I informed fire officials and police who reached the spot and managed to save me.”

History repeats itself… again and again and again.