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 )