Delhi: Chaos at AIIMS Trauma Centre after fire in operation theatre

A firefighter lifts a cordon tape to pass under it as security guards stand next to a fire truck after a fire broke out in the trauma centre of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi. (Reuters)

Chaos prevailed at Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre (JPNATC) on Sunday evening after a fire broke out on the ground floor of one of the operation theatres. No casualty was reported. Although the fire was doused within minutes, it took around three hours to clear smoke from the basement.

The AIIMS administration has ordered an enquiry to ascertain the exact cause of the fire. A senior fire officer said they received a call at 6.13 pm, following which 24 fire tenders were rushed to the spot. "We tried to douse the blaze using a fire extinguisher… we informed them (the DFS) after we failed. We also cut electricity supply to the building," said a senior security officer at JPNATC.

On reaching the spot, firefighters found that the fire started from the basement, where the operation theatre is located, following which they asked the hospital administration to shift patients to another ward.

"The ground and first floors were evacuated… Patients were shifted to another ward and the others too were moved out as smoke engulfed the ground floor. Although the fire stopped, the basement was filled with smoke. With the help of oxygen masks, we also conducted a search to ensure nobody was trapped. The cooling operation ended at 9 pm. We also found a leakage in an oxygen pipe which was later repaired," the fire officer said.

DFS Chief Fire Officer Atul Garg said, "Firefighters faced difficulty operating in the basement due to heavy smoke. Staffers and patients on the top floors were evacuated." Security guards posted at the hospital told DFS the fire was due to a short circuit. Police said a team of forensic experts will visit the spot and lift samples to confirm the exact cause.

The media department of JPNATC said smoke was noticed at 5.45 pm in one of the stores adjacent to the operation theatre on the ground floor. "Staff and doctors of the hospital showed alertness and took quick action to try and douse the fire… and the fire brigade responded immediately to the call. As a precaution, doctors and staff shifted the patients from the vicinity of the affected area to a safe zone. The situation was brought under control and the fire was doused by the joint efforts of the fire brigade, the fire safety team and staff of AIIMS," they said.

AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria and JPNATC chief Professor Rajesh Malhotra, along with other AIIMS officials, were on the spot to monitor the situation. "Fire safety measures had automatically kicked into action. No patients or attendants were in any way harmed or injured due to the fire incident. There has been no injury to the staff as well. The extent of the damage is not yet known and will be assessed later. The AIIMS administration has instituted an enquiry into the matter, and will also suggest further measures for improvement," an official said.