US bor­der not im­preg­nable Tem­ple fire due to se­cu­rity lapses


Se­cu­rity is­sues were found at nearly all of the US Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion’s (CBP) re­mote fa­cil­i­ties along the south­west bor­der, ac­cord­ing to a De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity In­spec­tor Gen­eral re­port. In­spec­tors vis­ited seven of the 11 fa­cil­i­ties, known as ‘For­ward Op­er­at­ing Bases,’ (FOBs) in the El Paso, Rio Grande Val­ley and Tuc­son re­gions. Three of the 11 were not op­er­a­tional at the time of the in­spec­tion. Six of the seven fa­cil­i­ties had se­cu­rity lapses, such as in­op­er­a­ble cam­eras as well as on­go­ing chal­lenges with pro­vid­ing safe drink­ing wa­ter to per­son­nel. One of the fa­cil­i­ties also had in­ad­e­quate liv­ing con­di­tions.

The op­er­at­ing bases are very re­mote CBP fa­cil­i­ties built to re­duce the re­sponse time for Bor­der Pa­trol agents work­ing in aus­tere ar­eas of the bor­der re­gion. They are also in­tended to in­crease law en­force­ment’s pres­ence in the area. Four of the bases that were in­spected didn’t have fully func­tion­ing closed-cir­cuit se­cu­rity cam- era sys­tems, which is re­quired by CBP rules to al­low agents on guard duty to mon­i­tor the fa­cil­ity and grounds.

“Be­cause of their prox­im­ity to the US-Mex­ico bor­der, it is es­sen­tial that FOBs are equipped with proper, func­tion­ing sur­veil­lance equip­ment,” the re­port stated. The re­port also found that cus­toms of­fi­cials were not per­form­ing all the re­quired in­spec­tions of the fa­cil­i­ties and didn’t keep the nec­es­sary doc­u­men­ta­tion of re­pairs. “With­out reg­u­lar in­spec­tions and timely main­te­nance and re­pairs, CBP can­not en­sure it will con­tinue to pro­vide ad­e­quate se­cu­rity, safety and liv­ing con­di­tions.”

Se­ri­ous se­cu­rity lapses in han­dling of ex­plo­sives led to the fire dis­as­ter at Put­tin­gal tem­ple in Kol­lam, Ker­ala, on April 10, Chief Con­troller of Ex­plo­sives said in a re­port submitted to the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia. Ex­plo­sive chem­i­cals ex­ceed­ing the norms in in­ten­sity, quan­tity and size were used to raise the deci­bels, the re­port said.

The fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ers ig­nored the ba­sic rule that the shed for stor­ing fire­works should be lo­cated at least 100 me­tres away from the dis­play site. The Ex­plo­sives Act clearly men­tions the size of the rock­ets (‘amittu’) that burst into colour­ful pat­terns as they progress through the sky from one stage to an­other. But the seize of the rock­ets used at Put­tin­gal was al­most 10 times above the pre­scribed lim­its. The stan­dard size of the iron bar­rels used for launch­ing the rock­ets is 8-10-12. Nearly half of the long bar­rels should be be­low the ground and be firmly fixed by ty­ing them with iron rods used in con­crete.

These rules were not fol­lowed at Put­tin­gal. In fact, a bar­rel tilted dur­ing the rocket launch and in­stead of go­ing up it went straight into the shed where a huge pile of fire­works was stored. The Ker­ala High Court has banned the use of high-deci­bel crack­ers and fire­works dis­play af­ter sun­set in places of wor­ship across the state in the wake of the tem­ple fire tragedy in Kol­lam that has claimed more than 110 lives.

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