Chennai: About 268 children of Tambaram municipal primary school, 10 teachers besides the non-teaching staff had a providential escape when 7 tonnes of bleaching powder stocked in two classrooms caught fire triggering panic in the neighbourhood. The bleaching powder was stored there to disinfect public places.
Teachers and other staff who displayed their presence of mind safely conducted the students studying from classes 1 to 5 out of the school.
The fire and rescue services department which rushed three fire tenders at 10.40 am to put out the fire at the school at Selaiyur in the city’s suburb battled all day to douse the fire. The classroom wall had to be pulled down with a JCB to avert an explosion.
The stench that emanated and also the smoke that enveloped the school and its vicinity panicked the localss. Though the fire was not immediately noticed, the teachers and the students experienced difficulty in breathing due to the smoke.
The parents hurried to the school and took away their children. Although the school authorities declared Wednesday as holiday, parents said that they would not send their children till the bleaching powder was removed and the classrooms cleaned.
They blamed the civic authorities for the blatant violation of safety norms.
Sources in the Tambaram municipality said 1,400 bags, each containing 50 kg, and totally accounting to 7 tonnes bleaching powder were stacked in two classrooms in December last year owing to the floods at that time. It was meant to be distributed to the municipal staff to disinfect public places, water tanks and wells.
“We had originally stocked 10 tonnes bleaching powder and over the months used 3 tonnes,” an official said and added this was meant for distribution in east Tambaram area.