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Fire services ministry comes down heavily on logistics firm for godown fire near Howrah Bridge

HOWRAH: 10/6/19: The fire services department swung into action and will be asking the logistics
firm, which ran the godown gutted in a fire near Howrah bridge on Saturday, about steps they had
taken to install fire-safety measures at the facility. The fire that started around 2.15am on Saturday
had spread from a shanty adjacent to the warehouse on the banks of the Hooghly. The flames were
so intense that even after they were doused the temperature inside the godown remained over
100°C. A forensic team that visited the gutted godown on Saturday had to return because the
temperature was not suitable for them to pick samples or inspect the damaged portion.
Fires services minister Sujit Bose said on Sunday that the department would shortly serve a notice to
seek the company’s clarification on the fire-safety measures it had adopted at the godown. An
official of the logistics company — Inland World Logistics Private Limited — claimed they had already
applied for a fire licence.
A senior fire services department official said initial inspections showed there were only a few fire
extinguishers at the gutted godown. “We did not find any sprinklers, fire alarms or water hydrants,”
he said. Till late on Sunday, firefighters were still working inside the godown searching for embers of
fire and dousing them.
“There is still a lot of smoke inside the godown. We are spraying water to cool down the place. We
also have to search for remnants of fire before we call off our operation,” said a fire brigade official
on Sunday. “We found temperatures as high as 140°C when we went there. We cannot work till
temperature in the confined space goes down to 45°C,” said a forensic official.
The intense heat could have led to the collapse of the first-floor roof, said a civil engineer.  “When
there is a lot of inflammable material inside and the flames burn for long, the temperature of the
confined space reaches close to 700°C,” said an engineer.  “Iron starts losing its strength and other
properties from the time temperature hits 500°C,” he said.
Metro saw at least one buckled column and several damaged beams on a portion of the first-
floor ceiling.  Bose told Metro that he was surprised that the port authorities did not take any
steps to stop the recurrence of such fires. “I will also try to find out why the port authorities
do not take steps to stop such recurrent fires,” he said.
A fire had broken out in a warehouse on the banks of Hooghly near Armenian Ghat in November
2017.  Another fire had ravaged a godown on Transport Depot Road in the port area in October
2017.  The Calcutta Port Trust is the owner of majority, if not all, of warehouses along the riverbank,
but they lease out the spaces to companies that run them. An official of Calcutta Port Trust had said
on Saturday that lessees were responsible for undertaking fire-safety measures and the agreements
were executed accordingly. But a retired fire brigade official said that even then the onus fell both
on the owner and the occupier.