Wednesday 17 Jul 2024

Rage of last year's Pilerne fire has cooled off

ASHLEY DO ROSARIO | MAY 16, 2024, 12:03 AM IST
Rage of last year's Pilerne fire has cooled off

The massive fire which engulfed the Berger Becker Coatings Pvt. Ltd factory at the Pilerne Industrial estate billowing smoke clouds across the skies of Bardez and southwards towards Panaji and the rest of Tiswadi at the start of last year, had many lessons to be learnt. Lessons for the administration, for the department of fire and emergency services and other authorities like the Inspectorate of Factories and Boilers, the Goa State Pollution Control Board among others.

Now, more than 16 months later, have those lessons been learnt? Are the requisite safety and fire prevention measures in factories across Goa put in place so that such fire disasters, which cost the company approximately Rs 60 crore in losses and almost threatened the entire Saipem hamlet down below do not recur? 

If they indeed have taken those lessons and acted, there is little evidence to show.

When that disaster struck on January 10 last year, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, Goa Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) chairman, Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco, MLAs from the region, Michael Lobo, Kedar Naik and sundry other politicians rushed to the spot. For the next week or so, there was a flurry of activity and statements and counter-statements empathising with the local population who faced the brunt of the accident.

However, all was forgotten within days, perhaps because there were no human casualties as luck favoured all of the 94 workers who were in the factory at the time who managed to evacuate unscathed.

The incident left a trail of destruction, with the company reporting a loss of finished products (paints), raw materials and machinery totally worth Rs 60 crore.

The fire service personnel had to use fire tenders which were brought in from fire stations across the State -- Porvorim, Panaji, Mapusa, Ponda, Bicholim, Margao, Curchorem and two more from the nearby Naval station at Verem.

Fire services report 

gathering dust?

A report prepared by a team of top officers of the Fire and Emergency Services and submitted to the government is yet to be acted upon.

"It (the report) has highlighted the shortcomings, especially the lack of purpose-specific equipment to deal with an industrial fire disaster of this magnitude and nature," a top official of the Fire and Emergency Services told The Goan on condition of anonymity.

The State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), which is headed by the chief minister and has heads of the PWD, electricity and several other departments, is co-ordinated in each district  by the respective collectors. However, it has little to show, in terms of planning for the future, from the experience of the Pilerne fire incident.

Saipem-Candolim residents 

call for relocating factory

The Pilerne industrial estate sits on a plateau and down below lies the thickly populated Saipem hamlet of Candolim village and residents from there faced the brunt of the inferno. 

In the aftermath, the village folk raised concerns and opposed the continuation of the Berger Becker Coating factory in that locality and voiced their demand to move it out of their village. Both Lobo and Naik publicly supported the demand but it had no takers in the government, which seemingly is waiting for yet another incident to get into action.

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