Two injured, eight houses damaged in fire as 20 gas cylinders explode
IMPHAL, June 24: Two persons sustained burn injuries while eight houses were damaged after a gas cylinder explosion led to a series of cylinder explosions in one of the most congested neighbourhood in the heart of the State capital at Majorkhul, next to the State Assembly Guest House today.
Around 20 gas cylinders are believed to have exploded during the inferno.
Local sources speculate that the loss of property could be around Rs one crore.
The injured are being treated at the Chamber of Commerce hospital.
The first cylinder exploded at 11.30am at a rented room occupied by a non-local in the first floor of a building owned by Rajani Panmei, 52, wife of (L) Khumanjao Panmei.
The devastating fire was finally doused after a duration of three hours by the State Fire Service which pressed a large number of fire tenders, including those from neighboring districts. The Chief Minister O Ibobi, Home minister Gaikhangam and other MLAs and ministers visited the spot during the time that the Fire Services were fighting the inferno.
After the first explosion sparked a fire in the rented room, it spread to the other adjoining rented rooms which were made of Rhino sheets and wooden planks.
Soon after, the fire spread to the other buildings located nearby followed by a few more cylinder blasts that reduced eight other kutcha buildings to ashes.
Around 20 gas cylinders blasted off during the massive fire which created a problem for the fire fighters to control the fire in time. Two fire tenders reached the site some 15 to 20 minutes after the fire started but were not able to proceed toward the direction of the fire due to the narrow road and the vehicles being parked along the road.
Locals of the area, including bystanders expressed unhappiness that two fire tenders remained parked near to the quarter of Heingang MLA Nongthombam Biren, located about 50 metres from the spot of the fire.
Many alleged that personnel of the Fire Services remained only as mute spectators and did not respond with the urgency that was required, standing by just to save the MLA quarter in case the fire reached it.
Soon after, the Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly, Th Lokeshor arrived at the spot and expressed his dissatisfaction with the response or rather the lack of it by the State fire service to control the devastating fire. He further expressed surprise over the absence of the Director of Manipur Fire Service and Imphal West SP at the spot even after an interval of half an hour after the fire was first reported.
One hour later, fire tenders from the other neighbouring districts arrived and helped to control the devastating fire. Riot control vehicle Varun along with water tankers from the CRPF and Assam Rifles were pressed into service to control the fire. More than 100 under training personnel of the police were also used to control the fire which subsided close to three hours after it first started.
Chief Minister O Ibobi, Home Minister Gaikhangam, MLA Ibomcha, MLA Th Shyamkumar, MLA Abdul Nazir, DGP Manipur Shahid Ahmed and other high ranking officers of the state visited the spot of the incident. The
Chief Minister took stock of the fire from the Manipur Press club building.
Speaking to the media before leaving the site, O Ibobi called the incident as an unfortunate one and further pointed out that it is important to make a plan to ensure fire services and security personnel can rush and control any emergencies and for the eviction of people in time. He also mentioned that the Government will consider improving the equipment put into use by the State Fire Service.
The CM also noted that most of incidents of fire outbreaks in the state are caused by electric short circuits or gas cylinder blasts. He then went on to add that very household often stocks 2-3 gas cylinders and when fire outbreaks take place, it would lead to major ones and further appealed to the public to make way for the Fire service and other security personnel so that they can rush in immediately to the spot to bring any situation under control in due time.
On the other hand, Home Minister Gaikhangam said that it was now clear that there is a manpower shortage in the State fire service. He further added that he would raise the issue in the Cabinet meeting to be held later in the day.
On the other hand a relief camp was opened at the local community hall, according to a late night report.
Meanwhile, a statement from the Director of the Fire Service said that there are only 20 staff at the Fire service head quarters including the administrative staff, even as the total strength of the every Fire station requires 35 staff.
It also pointed out that there are only about 200 fire service staff which is spread across different fire stations in the state which leads to shortage of manpower at the sites of major fire outbreaks.