08 January, Bengaluru
Five employees of a Bengaluru bar-cum-restaurant perished in a raging fire early on Monday after failing to break iron-grilled windows of the eatery. No fire safety norms were in place, police said.
All the five men were still inside the Kailash Bar and Restaurant in the city centre when it went up in flames at around 2.30 a.m., Bengaluru Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) M.N. Anucheth told reporters here.
Two fire engines were rushed to the congested vegetable market place area, where the restaurant is, to douse the flames after an eyewitness alerted the Police Control Room about the incident.
Fire and smoke were seen emanating from the bar on the ground floor of the old building, as many of the alcohol bottles and other inflammable items stored in the premises fuelled the blaze and gutted the building.
Karnataka Director General for Fire and Emergency Services M.N. Reddi told reporters after inspecting the gutted premises that prima-facie the bar had no fire extinguisher and did not follow safety norms.
“The premises had no emergency exit door, proper ventilation, exhaust fans or any escape route at the rear,” said Reddi, an IPS officer from 1984 batch.
Reddi, a former city police commissioner, who also visited the morgue at Victoria Hospital, said preliminary inquiry revealed that the victims died due to asphyxia and not due to severe burns.
They suffocated to death due to lack of fresh air, ventilation and no exit point for escape, Reddi added.
“The victims seem to have tried to escape from the premises but could not as they failed to break the iron grilled windows. No fire safety measures were in place at the bar,” said Reddi.
The cause of the fire was, however, still unknown even 14 hours after it broke out. “Electrical short circuit is suspected to have sparked it,” said Anucheth.
“We have registered a case of criminal negligence amounting to culpable homicide against bar owner R.V. Dayashankar, who obtained the trade and liquor licences to run it,” added Anucheth.
“An FIR has been registered under section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Dayashankar, his elder brother Prakash and bar manager Somashekar,” Assistant Commissioner of Police Niranjan Urs told IANS.
Fire brigade personnel recovered the bodies of the victims after dousing the flames around 4 a.m.
The victims were identified as Swami, 23, Prasad, 20, Mahesh, 35, Manjunath, 45, and Keerthi, 20.
Swami, Prasad and Mahesh were from Tumakuru, 70 km from Bengaluru, while Manjunath was from Hassan, 180 km away, and Keerthi from Mandya, 100 km from here.
State Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy, Bengaluru Development Minister K.J. George and senior police and civic body officials visited the ill-fated bar.
“The state government has decided to give Rs five lakh compensation to the families of each of the victims,” said George.
Admitting that commercial establishments should have two doors so that customers could rush out in case of fire, the Home Minister said Kailash Bar had only one shutter door.
George said charred remains of a geyser and a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) set were found in the premises after the fire was doused.
The Bengaluru pub blaze occurred about 10 days after a fire incident in a rooftop pub in Mumbai on December 29 that claimed 14 lives.
It has been almost a year since the Karnataka government allowed pubs, bars, restaurants and eateries in the cosmopolitan city to remain open till 1 a.m., ostensibly for catering to hundreds of tourists and thousands of techies from software firms and call or data centres, which operate on 24×7 basis through the year.
Bengaluru Mayor Sampath Raj, who inspected the burnt bar, told reporters that he had ordered an inquiry to find out why the victims were sleeping in the premises after downing the shutters after 1 a.m.
“We have directed the BBMP and the police to inspect … for fire safety norms and serve notice if they are violated,” Reddi said.
All bars and eateries across the city are required to provide clearly marked emergency exit doors in case of a fire along with fire fighting equipment, said Reddy.
The rules laid down by the civic body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) state that public buildings should be provided with emergency exits to allow safe escape of occupants in case of fire, along with installation of alarm devices to alert people and that the buildings must be equipped with fire extinguishers.
After the Mumbai pub blaze, the BBMP has raided several bars, pubs, restaurants and eateries in the city here.
“We have been conducting raids since January 2 to check if fire safety norms were in place. We have also shut down 10 bars and served notices to many others,” said Mayor Raj.