Wednesday’s fire accident at a high-rise shopping mall in Mattuthavani revealed the chink in the armour of Madurai Fire and Rescue Department. The Fire and Rescue Department’s skylift vehicle has been rendered out of use since 2020.
When fire broke out on the 9th floor of Super Saravana Stores, firemen were struggling to enter the top floor through staircase as thick smoke was billowing out through the staircase. All the sides were either closed with wall or glass windows in the fully-air-conditioned shopping mall.
The firemen had to struggle for hours to break open the glass to let the smoke out before identifying the seat of fire to put out the flames.
In 2019, the Department of Fire and Rescue had demonstrated the imported skylift which had an aerial ladder. The ladder could be lifted up to 115 feet to reach high-rise buildings to spray water to put out flames. It could also help the firemen to enter the top of high-rise buildings avoiding the staircase and rescue people.
An official said that the skylift had been in use in Chennai and was later sent to Madurai after the State capital got new ones few years back. However, the special fire tender is not road worthy.
“We are struggling to get it repaired and make it road worthy since every sparepart has to be imported,” an official said.
The advent of high rise buildings, including commercial complexes and residential buildings in Madurai city in the last few years has only necessiated the presence of skylift for quick response to emergency situations. Even the Tamil Nadu Housing Board is constructing a 14-floor residential apartment, one of the tallest buildings in the city, for Government employees in DRO Colony.
A working skylift in Madurai could be of great use during emergency situations, the official added.