Surat firefighters use 25 million litres of water to douse textile hub blaze

Sudeep Sonawane,
Surat, 22 January 2020 –

Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) firefighters used 25 million (2.5 crore) litres of water to put out the inferno that ravaged Raghuvir Celeum Textile Tower for over 12 hours, a senior official told The National Dawn Wednesday.

Speaking to this writer, SMC Chief Fire Officer Vasant Parikh said, “The municipal corporation used 82 fire engines from 16 fire stations in the city and over 150 firefighters who sprayed 25 million litres water jets to put out the blaze after a protracted struggle for hours.”

There were no deaths, but some firefighters suffered minor injuries, he said.

Fire started on the fourth floor of the textile tower at 3.50 am on Tuesday, an official said. Made in 2018, Raghuvir Celeum Textile Tower stands on Puna-Kumbhariya road in Saroli.

Firefighters struggled for hours to put out the blaze because the textile tower’s façade comprised material made from synthetic fabric that is impervious to water, but inflammable.

Confirming this Officer Parikh said, “Major of the damage to the building has occurred on its front façade.”

The SMC fire department used three high-rise ladders fitted with water bowsers to fight the fire. The department called fire engines and personnel from Hazira, Palsana, Hojiwala, Bardoli municipality and Kamrej.

Unofficial estimates peg the damages caused by the blaze, seemingly triggered by an electrical short-circuit, to around Rs 3 billion (Rs 300 crores) in the hub that’s home to 450 wholesale and retail shops.

There no official reports of death because the building was deserted when the fire started early morning. Around 3,000 textiles workers are busy in the building during business working hours.

This is second time fire broke out in the tower this month. A person familiar with the building’s recent history says, “Earlier on January 8 a minor fire took place on the same fourth floor and complaints lodged with the authority went unheeded.”

SMC Commissioner Banchhanidhi Pani said, “Surat Urban Development Authority (SUDA) has cancelled the Building Use Certificate (BUC) and sealed the premises.”

The SMC has sealed 35 textile markets and more than 150 shops in the last three months around the Ring Road, Salabtputra and Sahara Darwaja for not complying with fire safety rules

The SMC has issued notices to more than 50,000 establishments in the city for flouting fire safety norms.

SMC Deputy Commissioner NV Upadhyay told The Times of India, “We have targeted textile markets, commercial complexes, private tuitions classes, coaching classes, nurseries, hospitals, clinics, schools, and colleges.”

On May 24, 2019 an electrical short-circuit triggered a major fire in Takshashila Arcade. Twenty-two students died either because of burn injuries or jumping off from the top floor of the building through the windows. The students were trapped inside the coaching class because fire had demolished the doorway.

Surat had police arrested 14 people for negligence and culpable homicide. The city police had filed a 4,275-page charge-sheet in court in July 2019. The crime branch took over the case later.

On August 31, 2019, a major fire that started in the boiler section of Mayur Silk Mills gutted the entire property.

On October 14, 2019, a blaze gutted three textile shops located in Silk City Market on Ring Road.