THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A massive fire gutted part of Sree Padmanabha Theatre complex near Chalai on Thursday morning. An estimated loss of Rs 1 crore was incurred in the fire that was doused by six fire units after two hours. Three workers in the theatre escaped unhurt and were unaware of the fire until rescuers arrived. Three projectors, six 10 tonne airconditioners, seats, fans, carpets and soundproofing materials were gutted by the fire.
The citizens who noticed smoke billowing out of the theatre alerted Chenkalchoola Fire station at 7.25 am. The firefighters who rushed in found it difficult to enter the hall as the smoke had already filled the hall that was closed. “The fire might have started from a short circuit near the air conditioner. The soundproofing materials that included jute and cotton had created massive smoke. The blaze would have started at least two hours before being noticed,” said one of the rescuers.
There was a panic of fire re-emerging by 10 am. “The fire had not affected the lower circle of theatre or the second screen named Devi Priya,” officials said. The theatre officials rubbished rumours that screening of controversial movie Padmavat was planned here. The movie Carbon was being screened in the hall which was closed after the second show a night earlier.
Major stampede, mishap averted
A major tragedy was averted as the fire at Padmanabha theatre occurred well before the morning show. The Fire and Rescue officials said that there was a high possibility of a stampede at the theatre though there was no immediate possibility of casualty due to the fire itself. Only basic firefighting devices were present at the theatre, but they were inactive and workers had no idea how to operate them. The valves and hose hydrant valves with hoses required a motor pump to be on, but the power was lost in the blaze.
Also, there were no active sprinkler systems. Only fire extinguisher cylinders were readily usable. The rescuers presume that the smoke detectors were not operational at the time of the fire as the workers did not know of fire. “The migrant workers here were fast asleep and did not have any idea of what was happening and devices that were available. The static system was useless as there was no water without power,” officials said.
As per norms, the firefighting systems had to work 24 hours and there had to sufficient electricity back up. “Fire could have been controlled if someone intervened within two minutes. Stampede possibility was high as there were just two exits from the balcony which lead to small corridors and then to small assembly points. The place was too narrow that a stampede could have occurred easily. There was no mechanical smoke extractor to clear out smoke,” rescuers said.
“The materials used in the theatre were not inflammable in nature but generated massive smoke. This could have caused panic and stampede,” he added. Though Sree Padmanabha theatre was an old-style theatre, it was refurbished with two screens only before few years. The gutted screen had a 2K screen, over 530 seats and 80-tonne air-conditioning system. The second screen named Devi Priya had around 200 seats and was unaffected by fire....