Fire and rescue officials managed to put out the fire in the godown of Paragon footwear in Kochi after struggling for over three hours. The massive fire, which brought activity to a standstill for hours, was brought under control by 2 pm by fire and rescue officials.
The building was covered outside on all six floors with aluminium sheets and had improper ventilation, which made putting out the fire a difficult task. Despite efforts, the fire could not be subdued till 2 pm.
The godown caught fire around 11 am on Wednesday, which was reportedly caused due to a short circuit. It broke out in the ground floor of the six-storeyed building was first noticed by workers who came to unload items in the godown. Around 20 workers were in the building when the fire broke out, all of whom rushed out of the building as soon as they were informed.
As the building is located just one kilometre away from the Ernakulam South Railway Station, chaos had ensued in the neighbourhood and neighbouring buildings. â€śWe had no idea where this fire started. All of a sudden, we could see a part of the ground floor of the building had caught fire,â€ť said Parvathy, a resident of Govind Apartments, a building beside the Paragon godown.
About 28 families live in Govind Apartments, all of whom came out on the street when the fire broke out. â€śAlthough the apartment can accommodate 40 families, only a few people were present. The smoke was so dense that we were not able to stay inside the apartment,â€ť Parvathy told TNM.
Residents in the area said that although fire and rescue officials were swiftly informed, the fire had spread to the third floor by the time they arrived. This delay, officials said, was due to roadblock due to the ongoing construction works of Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL).
By 12.30 pm, vehicles of all fire and rescue departments had reached the spot, but the fire continued to rage. As they were struggling to bring the situation under control, help was sought from the fire and rescue departments of Alappuzha, Kottayam and Thrissur districts.
â€śAs we received reports that it was being difficult to manage the fire from spreading to nearby areas, we asked the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) in Kochi for help. It was only after they brought more advanced machines like the foam fighter were rescue workers able to control the fire,â€ť District Collector K Mohammed Y Safirulla told TNM.
According to the Deputy Collector (Disaster Management) Sheela Devi, it was the presence of a large quantity of flammable raw materials like rubber which caused the fire to spread quickly. The commodities inside the building included shoes, bags and umbrellas. Paragon officials estimated the loss to be around Rs 5 crore.
Kochi Mayor Soumini Jain told mediapersons that the fire could have spread rapidly because the building may not have complied with norms, which Paragon officials denied.
â€śThis building is almost 12 years old. We had constructed this building by sticking to the norms at the time it was constructed. We have no idea why the Mayor put out a statement against us,â€ť an official of Paragon godown told TNM.
Safirulla said that whether the building complied with norms would be looked into.
To avoid further untoward incidents, students of a school which was located just a few meters away from the spot were moved to another school in the city during working hours. â€śWe could see the blaze from the school itself. There are around 1,000 students in the school including kids in kindergarten, so we decided to shift the students without waiting for any information from the officials,â€ť said Lincy Joseph, one of the teachers.