In a small gully just off New Bamboo Bazaar Road in Bengaluruâ€™s Kalasipalya area, Kailash Bar and Restaurant, a 70-year-old building went up in flames early on Monday morning. The blaze killed five people.
Swarms of police and fire services personnel were seen coming out of the building at around 10am.
Hours after the fire, civic officials have now admitted that the establishment violated several laws and safety norms.
The fire at the bar and restaurant on the ground floor of Kailash Bar and Restaurant building in Kalasipalya broke out in the early hours of Monday morning. The fire claimed the lives of five employees, who were staying inside the bar.
â€śAll five victims were staying inside the bar which violates labour laws. If there is a situation where the staff is unable to afford accommodation, then the owner of the establishment should ensure that the staff are accommodated elsewhere,â€ť said Bengaluru Mayor Sampath Raj.
The mayor also admitted that fire safety norms were violated and that the staff were not aware of basic fire-safety measures.
â€śFire safety norms were violated blatantly. There was no fire exit staircase, there is no proper ventilation and there were no fire extinguishers inside the building. Even though the staff was staying inside, there was a risk of fire and the staff was not aware of fire-safety measures. If they were taught basic measures of safety, the deaths could have been avoided. The owner of the establishment should ensure staff knows how to handle emergencies like a fire breaking out,â€ť said Sampath Raj.
Bengaluru Police has arrested Dayashankar, the owner of the bar.
A case has been registered against him under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder). The police is also investigating whether workers were staying in the bar to serve alcohol after-hours.
â€śBased on preliminary investigations, there is a suspicion that the reason they were in the bar is so that they could sell alcohol,â€ť said T Suneel Kumar, Bengaluru Police Commissioner.
â€śForensic Science Lab and the state electrical inspectorate is yet to file a report but it appears to be a short circuit,â€ť said Kumar.
The police also confirmed that a suspected short-circuit of a UPS sparked a fire, which originated near the entrance of the bar and spread rapidly as there were several alcohol bottles near it.
â€śThe building is very old and has violated building norms also. We are conducting a probe to check discrepancies in the building norms,â€ť added Kumar.
Police Commissioner Kumar also told TNM that Ramachandra, who is a cashier at the bar, received a call saying that there was smoke coming out the building. Ramachandra in turn called his relative Prasad, who is one of victims of the fire, telling him and the others to get out immediately.
â€śFive of them ran and locked themselves in the bathroom. While three have died due to asphyxiation, the bodies of two other victims were found burnt,â€ť said Kumar.
Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy, KJ George and Commissioner T Suneel Kumar at Kalasipalyam
50-minute delay in arriving at spot
Sources have also told TNM that while the Kalasipalyam fire station received a call informing them of the fire at 3.10am, fire services personnel arrived at the spot only at 4am â€“ indicating a delay of 50 minutes.
Fire services personnel that TNM spoke to on the ground also confirmed that they had arrived at the scene only at 4am.
But it wasnâ€™t just a delay in getting to the spot that prevented fire personnel from saving the victims. Fire personnel say that they faced challenging entering the building that was engulfed in flames. â€ś
â€śWe faced problems going in as the shutter of the building was locked from inside,â€ť said a fire personnel on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Bengaluru Bruhat Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is conducting its own internal probe into the incident.
Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy confirmed Rs 5 lakh compensation for the victimsâ€™ families. He also said that the Labour Department will conduct an inquiry and see if there are other places where violations are happening.