Fire tragedies: Apathy, violations remain constant, toll is the only variant

Weeks after a fire at Kamala Mills Complex in Lower Parel area of Mumbai claimed 14 lives, another fire related…

Fire tragedies: Apathy, violations remain constant, toll is the only variant

(From left) Bawana warehouse fire and Uphaar cinema hall. (Photos: AFP/Twitter)

Weeks after a fire at Kamala Mills Complex in Lower Parel area of Mumbai claimed 14 lives, another fire related incident snuffed out 17 lives at a warehouse in Delhi.

Seventeen people, including 7 women, were killed in the Delhi inferno at a firecracker storage unit in outer Delhi’s Bawana industrial area on Saturday. The fire, which started at the storage unit on the ground floor of a three-storey building, ripped through the structure, a official said.

The frequency of fire accidents in commercial and industrial units across India exposes the absence of state preparedness and machinery to monitor unauthorised constructions and operations of such facilities or to tackle fire related accidents.


This is not the first time that lives have been lost due to the violation of fire safety norms. Here’s a list of major fire tragedies, which took place in different parts of the country over the years.

December, 1995: Mandi Dabwali fire tragedy (Haryana)

A fire broke out in a ‘pandal’ (structure built of bamboo) at Mandi Dabwali on 24 December 1995, and the whole burning structure collapsed over the people attending the annual function of DAV School.

Around 300 people, mostly schoolchildren, were killed and 100 were injured in the fire with 70-80 with severe burns.

The venue of the function was just a four-wall structure with only one exit through a small gate. The fire accident occurred due to a short-circuit.

June, 1997: Uphaar Cinema (Delhi)

This tragedy occurred on 13 June 1997 at Uphaar Cinema in Green Park, Delhi, during the screening of the movie Border.

The disaster left 59 dead, mostly due to suffocation because of being trapped inside, and, at least 103 people were seriously injured in the stampede thereafter.

Non-functional PA system, emergency lights, foot lights and exit lights, blocked gangways, blocked exits with most of the doors locked, and obstruction at available exits due to unauthorised shops were some of the reasons for the severity of the accident.

Absence of fire extinguishers and lack of periodic maintenance also contributed towards more casualties.

February 1997: Odisha religious congregation fire

In a religious congregation of sect leader called Acharya Nigamananda at Baripada Odisha, a fire broke out in which 206 people were dead and 148 were injured.

According to media reports, inflammable tents caught fire along with the thatched roof after a short circuit in one of the camp.

December, 2011: AMRI fire tragedy (Kolkata)

At least 95 people, including staff members, were killed in the fire accident at AMRI Hospital, which occurred at 3 am on 9 December 2011, by a hazardous fire and due to suffocation caused by carbon monoxide spread across the hospital premises.

A short circuit in the basement, of the hospital located at Dhakuria in South Kolkata, resulted in inflammable substances catching fire which spread through the hospital at a very rapid rate.

The central AC system carried the smoke all through the building, causing asphyxiation and killing people

July, 2004: Kumbakonam fire accident (Tamil Nadu)

In the Sri Krishna Aided Higher Secondary School at Kumbakonam in the Thanjavur District of Tamil Nadu around 94 children were killed and many were injured after the thatched roof structure of the school caught fire.

The school was located amidst residential buildings. The school had a very exit gate 4 ft (1.2 m) wide.

The classrooms did not have any partition.The buildings in the nursery and primary schools had no ventilation.

The layout of the first floor was similar to the ground floor where classes had no separation and exit was through a narrow collapsible door.

April, 2016: Puttingal Temple fire accident (Kerala)

Around 111 people were killed and 350 others were injured at the Puttingal Temple in Kollam, Kerala, after a blast occurred occurred in the premises due to bursting of firecrackers.

The temple and at least 150 houses in the area of the temple were damaged by the blast.

The firecrackers were part of the “competitive fireworks display” and the temple authorities did not have permission for the display.