6 month-old among 8 killed, 28 critical in hospital fire

Eight persons died and 145 were injured—28 critically—in a blaze that erupted in the state government-run ESIC Kamgar Hospital, Marol MIDC, shortly after 4pm on Monday. Firefighting operations to extinguish the level 4 fire—the second level on the fire severity alarm scale—went on for over three hours. The deceased include a six-month-old girl. Another, a woman, fell on the ground, along with her firefighter rescuer, from a crane. Four of the six deceased were yet to be identified at the time of going to press.
Two deceased are currently at Cooper Hospital, one in Holy Spirit hospital, four in Seven hills hospital and one in Shatabdi hospital. While 141 patients are admitted for treatment in many of the above mentioned hospitals, 28 have been treated and discharged.
The possible cause of the fire was a short circuit in a window AC unit on the ground floor of the five-storey structure. An MIDC fire officer said the hospital did not have an OC or a fire NOC (no-objection certificate) because of infrastructural problems and a lack of adequate safety provisions.

In fact, 15 days ago, we went to the hospital on an inspection and served it a notice,” he said. For example, there was only one exit from the building as the other exit was blocked owing to construction work, said eyewitnesses. The glass facade of the building and limited ventilation made firefighting and rescue difficult.
The 325-bed hospital, run by the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) under the Union labour and employment ministry, is in the jurisdiction of the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, which has its own fire station—the first to respond to the emergency.
A male nurse, Kailash Dhayal, who has been with the hospital for 10 years, said, “My duty had just finished before 4pm. Since I live in the staff quarters behind the hospital, I came running back hearing screams.”
The hospital’s structural problems and non-compliance with fire safety norms could have led to the deaths and injuries: after the fire started, smoke from the ground floor spread throughout the building—which has a glass facade—finding it difficult to escape; most of the deaths and injuries were attributed to suffocation. Time and time again, complaints have been received against ESIC hospitals across the country for being poorly managed and for having outdated equipment.

On the firefighters’ preliminary investigation, an officer said, “The ground floor had stacks of rubber rolls, which are combustible material. This is likely to have aided the fire, presumably triggered by a short circuit. The fire then shot upwards through an open fire duct. The fourth floor of the hospital was affected the most as smoke got lodged there for the longest duration.”
Adding to the chaos was that the blaze occurred during the hospital’s visiting hours. “Thus, many more people were present in the building,” said an official.
Deputy chief fire officer, MIDC, VM Ogale, said, “Construction work has been underway on the hospital premises for a new wing since 2009. We had provided a provisional NOC, but not a final one. The building doesn’t even have an occupation certificate.” On Monday, only the water pump room at the hospital was found to be functional. Assistant director of the hospital, Sarika Kakkad, said, “We have OC and fire NOC. The portion without the final NOC is not being used.” TOI