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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Chennai Silks fire ~ some instances of fire accidents earlier elsewhere !!

“Oh the miserable and calamitous spectacle!” wrote John Evelyn in 1666, “mine eyes … now saw above 10,000 houses all in one flame.” The conflagration he witnessed from 2-5 September destroyed much of the medieval metropolis, swallowing 400 streets, 13,200 houses, 87 churches, and 44 livery halls.  Many of the City of London’s most iconic buildings were consumed: St Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Exchange, Newgate Prison, Christ’s Hospital, even Whittington’s Longhouse, one of the biggest public toilets in Europe, in the Vintry. Evelyn was aghast at the destruction of so much of the medieval centre: “London was, but is no more”.  Yet this wasn’t exactly true. By the time of the fire, only a quarter of London’s population actually lived in the walled city, compared to three-quarters a century earlier. The growing eastern suburbs like Wapping and Stepney were left unscathed – as were much of Holborn, the Temple, western Fleet Street, the Strand, and the emergent squares of the West End.

Last year, in a fire accident, 300 years of history was wiped out in a devastating fire as England's oldest hotel got  reduced to a charred and crumbling shell.  It was Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter caught alight and  110 firefighters tackled the flames.  The blaze thought to have started at art gallery in the city centre before spreading to 17th-century structure ~ a structure that had survived for more than 3 centuries was reduced to rubbles in a day.

Back home, it was the talk of the town.  In July 1975, the city’s most iconic building, the tallest structure at that time, was on fire.  Those were not the times of media, mobs and selfie takers – the fire that reportedly was first observed on the first floor in the morning  spread  rapidly to the floors above through several vertical openings and shafts. The incident necessitated deployment of the entire fire fighting resources of the city, including units from the Chennai Port Trust, refineries, and so on. The operations continued overnight and concluded at about 6.00 pm the following day. During the initial stages, the fire-fighting operations were seriously hampered due to falling splinters of glass, burning fragments and molten metal from window frames made of aluminum. In addition, heavy sea breeze aided the rapid spread of fire. As the city hydrants had paucity of water, the fire-fighting operations mostly depended upon the fleet of water lorries provided by the Corporation of Chennai which were utilized for relaying water from the Cooum river  about 0.5 km away.  It is another story that Coovum had water and was not a sewerage drain those days !

There have been some more – each sensational when they occurred for varied reasons too.  Spencer’s landmark building in Mount road was on fire in 1983, and later the city’s first mall sprung up. Moore market was on fire – later Allikulam complex was vacated and Southern Railway Automated Reservation Complex came in its place.  Madras GPO, Chepauk Palace and many other buildings have had some devastating fires. 

A web search reveals the towering inferno on fire.   Towering Inferno movie was  action–drama disaster film produced directed by John Guillermin,  featuring an all-star cast led by Paul Newmanand Steve McQueen, released in 1974 a JV of  20th Century Fox and Warner Bros.  This is about  Campbell Shopping Complex fire,  a major disaster in Malaysia  that occurred in Apr l 1976 at Jalan Campbell,  Kuala Lumpur. The entire shopping complex including its 20-storey office tower block was completely destroyed in the fire accident.   The raging fire lasted for about 30 hours, claiming the life of one victim and a huge property loss.   The complex had been  opened in May 1973,  which was at that time Kuala Lumpur's first high-rise shopping complex.  The Fire Protection Association of Malaysia (FPAM) was formed the same year after the incident occurred.

A few months ago, a shopping centre and surrounding buildings in Oderzo, Italy, was engulfed in flames.  Local emergency services reported there was no one in the building at the time of the fire and that no injuries have occurred. The cause of the fire was not known.  Recently, hundreds of terrified shoppers had to be  evacuated from a burning shopping mall in Moscow. It was a severe fire burning  down the plastic exterior of the building and set two cars on fire. Firemen contained the blaze after evacuating around 500 shoppers. No casualties were  reported.

There have been some relatively smaller fire accidents, sadly there have been casualties, loss of life.  When a fire strikes, it is devastation, the life of people involved suddenly turns down, and mostly they are brought down kneeling down. It is a time of disaster and suffering that people require support.  In this angle, let us not spread any rumour on the fire, its cause, extent and various other aspects of the fire accident of Chennai Silks, situate in the crowded T Nagar.

One thing is to be appreciated is the news that even during such crisis, the management has reportedly paid the salaries to its staff and had relocated them in their other shops.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

3rd June 2017.

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