In the early hours of April 26, a museum in the heart of the national capital was engulfed in flames, quite mysteriously. The newspapers report that 100 firemen were pressed into service, and it took them 37 fire tenders and eight lakh litres of water to douse the fire that had spread to all the floors of the seven-storey building. The cause of the fire that destroyed several precious natural artefacts is yet to be ascertained, but cops are probing the possibility of a sabotage.
No casualties have been reported, but fire officials have sent a notice to the museum authorities for not adhering to safety standards. It has been found that the museum – that is frequented by children – was not in possession of a fire safety clearance that has to be taken every three years.
According to news reports, a team of firemen that went inside the building to cut off the source of the fire noticed that apart from the fire alarms, none of the sprinklers or hydrants were found to be working. The building, along with its relics, was gutted from inside, charred beyond recognition. The flames could be controlled after several strenuous and anxious hours. The cooling operations began around 9.30am.
The Times of India reported that the museum had been neglected by the government for years. That watchdog bodies had been questioning its functioning for years, even as it witnessed a constant fall in footfall.
Who is to be blamed for its destruction then? An oblivious-government’s apathy or an insider’s devious deed?
Needless to say, important pieces of priceless history have been lost, and forever. The museum was home to ammonite fossil, a 160-year-old fossil bone of a sauropod, a large collection of bird eggs, several stuffed animal specimens, and the like. The biggest loss is the devastation of the taxidermy specimens – a dying art of preparing, stuffing and mounting the skins of animals for display, suggests news reports.
It is unrealistically uncanny that a fire of this magnitude broke out in the dead of night, and its cause has not been ascertained. It is disappointing to learn that the authorities took the building’s safety for a casual stroll. Why were there no fire clearances when getting one every three years is mandatory?
Has public safety become a choice now? Whatever evidences the investigating team could procure, has been destroyed in the fire, when the flames spread between the floors. If the government had been a little more cognizant in maintaining places of public interest, such a shattering tragedy would not have occurred.
We agree with the police that the angle of sabotage is plausible and cannot be ruled out. We also urge the government to learn from its mistakes and take necessary steps to ensure that such a distressing incident does not repeat itself.