Lucknow: Massive fire teared through Punjab National Bank’s main audit branch in Halwasiya building, Hazratganj, forcing evacuation of families trapped in the rear portion of the building on Sunday evening. To doze off the fmammoth blaze, 12 fire tenders were rushed to the building.
Around 4.15 pm, some passers-by spotted the fire and send an SOS to police and fire department even as panic spread in the upscale Hazratganj market area bringing traffic to a halt.
The sparks from a power interface had reportedly triggered a massive fire on the ground floor of the bank. Two floors of the three-storeyed building are with the bank, which was closed on the weekend, hence, made the evacuation exercise smooth. However, the building’s matchbox-like contours with no fire exits proved to be a nightmare for firemen amidst the leaping flames and billowing smoke. During the rescue mission, three firemen suffered severe burns.
SHO, Hazratganj, Shyam Babu Shukla who was the first to reach the spot, said the fire broke out at the ground floor of the bank and later engulfed the first floor with the smoke spreading through the building. The police officer immediately sought reinforcements and began rescuing families stuck at the rear half of building after cordoning off the area.
Chief fire officer, Lucknow, Vijay Kumar Singh, said, “Prima facie it appears that an overheated UPS blew up triggering a short-circuit that escalated into a fire. It took over an hour to douse the flames and the ground floor of the bank was wrecked. There were no casualties, but with no ventilation and fire exits, firemen used oxygen tank kits and smashed window panes to gain entry,” said the officer.
Senior bank officials, including circle head of Punjab National Bank, A H Kinder, rushed to the spot. Kinder told media that he has ordered an inquiry and losses were being estimated. He said, the customer area of the ground floor was damaged, but files and cash were intact.
Two of the seven residents evacuated from the building, Hari Om and Pooja, thanked police for the swift operation. “I was not aware about the fire and was watching the cricket match. Suddenly, police and firemen rushed in and took me out safely,” he said.
The building’s fire safety arrangements are under investigation as it did not have a fire exit. The alarm was functional only in ATM kiosks on the ground floor. The chief fire officer said, they would also check when a fire audit of the building was last conducted.