Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - HTNATION -

Fire of­fi­cials said they could not use the turntable lad­der as the podium got in the way, and there was just enough space for a car to drive through. As the lad­der weighed 50 tonnes, the fire bri­gade was un­sure if the podium could take the weight.

But this ex­poses a larger is­sue about fire safety in such build­ings, as a ma­jor­ity of high-rises in the city have sim­i­lar podi­ums with land­scaped gar­dens and park­ing ar­eas. In the past few years, more and more sky­scrapers are com­ing up across Mum­bai city.

Chief Fire Of­fi­cer P Ra­hang­dale said the only so­lu­tion, when ac­cess­ing the higher floors is a chal­lenge, is to rely on the in­ter­nal sys­tem of the build­ing. Across the world, fire­fight­ing agen­cies rely on the build­ing’s in­ter­nal fire safety sys­tem to fight fires in high rises, he said.

“It is in­creas­ingly even more im­por­tant to have a sound in­ter­nal safety sys­tem. The ac­cess area to the build­ing needs to be cleared, and large open spa­ces im­me­di­ately around the sky­scrapers need to be main­tained. If Beau­monde’s fire safety sys­tem was not work­ing, we were look­ing at a larger tragedy,” Ra­hang­dale said.

The high­est lad­der in any coun­try’s fire brigde is 112 me­tres. Mum­bai can­not use that as its roads are nar­row and not strong enough to take the weight of the ve­hi­cle car­ry­ing such a lad­der. Fur­ther, struc­tural con­straints of build­ings, such as an un­der­ground park­ing, leaves no frim floor struc­tures to sup­port such ve­hi­cles.

A se­nior of­fi­cial of the fire bri­gade, who was part of the fire­fight­ing oper­a­tions, said, “The lad­der could not be taken close enough to clearly ac­cess the build­ing be­cause of the podium. We could not mount the lad­der on the podium as it can­not sup­port its weight, and be­cause there is no space on the podium to ac­com­mo­date such a huge ve­hi­cle.”

How­ever, a staff mem­ber of the build­ing, who did not want to be named, pointed out, “When Beau­monde tower was con­structed, the fire bri­gade tested their heavy ve­hi­cles on the podium. A big fire en­gine was brought to the podium; it en­tered and ex­ited through the back gate, which was built as a fire exit.’’

A res­i­dent of the B wing said, “Ponds and flower pots dec­o­rate the front ac­cess way be­cause there is a spe­cial back gate for the fire bri­gade. That gate gives them clear ac­cess to the podium. It is only af­ter this fire that the of­fi­cials ex­pressed there was a dif­fi­culty in ac­cess­ing the podium.”

The rear of the podium ac­com­mo­dated two wa­ter tankers at a time, which supplied wa­ter to the build­ing’s riser sys­tem — the fire­fight­ing equip­ment. But the lad­der needed to be parked in front of the build­ing, to ac­cess the fire the top floor, a fire of­fi­cial said.

R Chaud­hari, deputy chief fire of­fi­cer said, “Even af­ter the fire bri­gade tested the podium with its equip­ment and gave an NOC, it is the duty of the build­ing to keep the podium free. In this case that was not done.’

Ra­hang­dale said, “The podium has no space for a large and wide ve­hi­cle to drive on it. There is so much con­struc­tion on the sur­face that needs to be cleared.” Mufti, who went to Bukhari’s house to meet his fam­ily, broke down while speak­ing about him. “This is re­ally shock­ing. He came to meet me a few days back. This is up­set­ting...,” she said. Bukhari is sur­vived by his wife and two chil­dren.

“Deeply sad­dened and shocked by the tragic news of Shu­jaat Bukharis killing! Such in­hu­man­ity is un­par­don­able and con­demned in the strong­est terms! Proud son of the soil his death is a huge loss.shu­jaat was an eru­dite in­tel­lec­tual a fear­less jour­nal­ist and above all a self­less hu­man deeply con­cerned for his peo­ple. My heart­felt con­do­lences to his be­reaved fam­ily. Pray to almighty for his mag­fi­rat and place in Jan­nat,” tweeted Mir­waiz Umar Fa­rooq, who is chair­man of the sep­a­ratist All Par­ties Hur­riyat Con­fer­ence.

His brother Syed Basharat Bukhari is the horticulture min­is­ter in the Jammu and Kash­mir gov­ern­ment.

A se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer said that gun­men had opened fire on Bukhari and his se­cu­rity guards from two sides. “He (Bukhari) has sev­eral bul­let in­juries and prob­a­bly died on the spot,’’ the of­fi­cer said.

An­other po­lice of­fi­cer who reached the spot soon af­ter the at­tack said the guards, who were car­ry­ing weapons, had been taken by sur­prise. He said that they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether the gun­men had used small arms or ri­fles, which would be con­firmed af­ter a de­tailed ex­am­i­na­tion of the shells by bal­lis­tic ex­perts.

Bukhari’s col­league at Ris­ing Kash­mir, Ish­faq Ah­mad, said he had just left the of­fice. “Within min­utes, we heard gun­shots. I can’t be­lieve that our editor is dead.’’

For­mer Jammu and Kash­mir chief min­is­ter Omar Ab­dul­lah said that Bukhari had died in the line of duty. “Even in the last tweet he put out, he was de­fend­ing him­self, his col­leagues & his pro­fes­sion. He died in the line of duty do­ing what he did best & loved do­ing – jour­nal­ism,’’ Ab­dul­lah tweeted.

Bukhari had writ­ten in the tweet at 11.33am that he and his col­leagues had “done Jour­nal­ism with pride and will con­tinue to high­light what hap­pens on ground”, in re­sponse to a tweet that had de­scribed him as in­tol­er­ant.

The Cen­tre had on May 16 an­nounced a uni­lat­eral cease­fire in Jammu and Kash­mir dur­ing Ramzan, say­ing this was nec­es­sary to help “peace lov­ing Mus­lims” ob­serve the holy month in a peace­ful en­vi­ron­ment.

Bukhari’s killing has cast a cloud of un­cer­tainty over the ex­ten­sion of the Ramzan halt to oper­a­tions against mil­i­tants in Jammu and Kash­mir, which, ac­cord­ing to few se­cu­rity agen­cies, has al­lowed mil­i­tants to re­group.

The pros and cons of ex­tend­ing the so-called uni­lat­eral cease­fire were ear­lier dis­cussed at a meet­ing called by home min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh, of­fi­cials said.

Dur­ing the one-month cease­fire, three lo­cal po­lice­men, four civil­ians, three army sol­diers and 24 mil­i­tants have been killed in more than 60 in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence. Con­trol to Dubai, Is­tan­bul and other lo­ca­tions away from the din of the sub­con­ti­nent.

At a time when chief min­is­ter Me­hbooba Mufti is wag­ing a bat­tle for peace, Shu­jaat’s death is a tremen­dous blow. There are those who had their dif­fer­ences with Shu­jaat and with Ris­ing Kash­mir’s views, as there would be with a fiercely in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist. But, with­out a shred of doubt, to­day, Kash­mir is in­fin­itely poorer with­out him. The big­gest trib­ute to him is to con­tinue to fight this in­sane vi­o­lence and those who per­pet­u­ate it.

(Matto is Ad­vi­sor to J&K CM Me­hbooba Mufti and an In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions pro­fes­sor )

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