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Monday, January 22, 2007

Fire in Taj banquet hall water tenders save building

Fire in Taj banquet hall
Short-circuit suspected; firemen take 30 mins to control blaze; lobby, kitchen damaged

Express News Service
Chandigarh, January 21:

Fire broke out in the banquet hall of Taj GVK this evening, creating panic in the area. Though there was no casualty, a portion of the five-star hotel’s lobby, kitchen and banquet hall suffered damage. The exact cause of the fire could not be ascertained till late night, but according to fire officials it seemed to be the result of a short-circuit in the banquet hall.

The fire, which started around 3.55 pm, was brought under control in about 25-30 minutes, but the fire-fighters had a tough time detecting the source of thick smoke, which had engulfed the hotel lobby on the ground floor and even upper floors. As many as 43 rooms of the hotel were occupied at that time. All the guests and other visitors were evacuated immediately.

While a few guests were transferred to Hotel Mountview, others refused to leave without their belongings. They were seen hanging around as the fire-fighting operations were in progress.

“Because of the structure of the hotel building, there was no exit for the smoke. We had to break the lobby glasses. After conducting a thorough check, we restored electricity at about 7 pm, after which the hotel staff started cleaning operations,” said one of the fire officers.

Besides four water tenders, a Bronto skylift, water-boozer, exhauster and other fire-fighting equipment were used in the operation carried out by around 35-40 fire-fighters. Ishwar Dass, the leading fireman, fell unconscious because of the thick smoke. He was admitted to General Hospital, Sector 16, where he was given medical treatment.

In-house fire-fighting system ‘Inadequate’
z The fire has raised questions on the in-house fire fighting capabilities of the hotel. The guests said they didn’t hear any fire alarm when the fire broke out. “The hose reel and hydrants inside the hotel didn’t function also didn’t function,” said Fire Officer JS Kang. When asked whether the NOC of the hotel will be suspended because of this “inadequacy”, Fire Officer cum Joint Commissioner H.S. Khandola, said: “It will be too harsh to suspend the NOC of the hotel because of this incident. Now that everything is in control, we don’t think that the suspension is required.” Guests ‘harassed’
A number of guests who were asked to evacuate were seen worried about their luggage and other belongings left inside. Jake, a tourist from Chicago, complained that no fire alarm was used. “I was working on my laptop when someone knocked at my door and informed me about the fire.” Another guest had a worse experience. “When I got a call on my mobile that there is fire on the ground floor, I rushed downstairs, but got lost as the exit signs were not clearly marked. The hotel staff were more confused.” Taj GVK general manager Anil Malhotra said they didn’t use the fire alarm “because they didn’t want to create a panic”. “It was just smoke and there were no flames. We are trying to find out the cause of fire. Except a few glasses that were broken to give a way out to the smoke, nothing else got damaged or burnt. The banquet hall, it seems, won’t be functional for some time. Our hotel’s coffee shop, all restaurants and bar have started functioning as usual,” he said.





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