Mapusa bar blast is another wake-up call for authorities


A powerful blast at a small bar and restaurant situated on the ground floor of a two-storey building in a residential colony of Mapusa has shattered the peace in the area and baffled investigation teams that rushed to the scene. The explosion was so intense that it ripped off the shutter of the premises and other furniture, including the window grill of the bar, and flung them at least 20 metres away. The impact was felt in the vicinity, with a nearby house developing a crack in its wall while window panes of flats above the bar came crashing down.

The fire brigade team, bomb-disposal squad and forensic officials visited the site and were initially clueless about the exact cause of the blast. Subsequently, it emerged that the explosion was caused due to gas leakage from the cylinders. Surprisingly, none of the three cylinders was damaged, and neither were the regulators, throwing questions about fire safety in restaurants.

The blast, irrespective of the perspective one holds, raises pertinent questions on safety standards followed in restaurants where LPG cylinders are being used. Goa is a tourist state teeming with bars and restaurants, each following a different set-up and system, and the business concerns mostly overpower fire safety. This is why there has to be a mechanism of robust checks and balances to ensure public safety.

The Mapusa blast cannot be ignored because there were no casualties or human injuries. A bar and restaurant patronized till late hours could have easily turned into a deathbed if the blast had occurred during regular working hours. The bar in question has been allowed the liberty to carry on business till late at night, showing that basic business checks were compromised.

On Monday, fire officials blamed the explosion on LPG gas leakage due to a crack in the pipe connecting the stove. It was disclosed that the gas cylinder was used for the high-intensity stove, and the tube was not ISI-compliant. While the electricity department, factory and boilers and other departments work on their reports, all fingers are pointing currently towards the negligence of the restaurant owner. The point is, how is such negligence going unchecked? Using sub-standard equipment or bypassing set protocols in businesses, especially on fire safety, is common, but why is the system lagging on checks? For example, fire permissions are granted when issuing a licence for business, but what about renewals, site inspections, and subsequent checks?

Fire incidents are rising in Goa, and recently the High Court of Bombay at Goa observed that negligence in compliance with fire safety requirements is like playing with fire. Are authorities waiting for a tragedy to strike to take cognizance and act? It took a mammoth fire at the Berger paint factory at Pilerne to understand the importance of industrial safety audits. Only after the fire, which took over two days to be controlled, did authorities show urgency in understanding the holding capacity of flammable chemicals in units or the threat perception such industries cause to the residents in the area.

It is time for a reality check on all establishments to ensure public safety. The Mapusa blast should be a wake-up call to all, including owners of bars and restaurants.

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