No clarity yet on cause of fire, but probe rules out explosion

Contrary to initial reports, a preliminary investigation into the cause of the fire in a flat at Devarachikkanahalli on Tuesday, in which two women were killed , indicates there was no explosion. “The damage in the flat seems to indicate there was no explosion. If it had occurred, a blast would have left more physical damage,” a senior official said.

Fire and Emergency Services personnel recovered two undamaged LPG cylinders from the kitchen, one empty and the other full. This ruled out a blast triggered by leaking LPG as well.

Senior Fire Services officials said a thorough technical investigation of the flat would be conducted on Thursday and there was no clarity yet on the cause of the fire.

One of the victims, Bhagyarekha, 59, had returned from the U.S. with her husband after a six-month stay there. According to a senior official, an electrical short-circuit, gas leak, or malfunctioning of electrical appliances, such the fridge or geyser, could not be ruled out as they had not been in use for many months.

Multiple agencies, including the Forensic Science Laboratory, Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom), Electrical Inspectorate, and Indane Gas Agency, inspected the flat on Wednesday.

Agencies now suspect the fire started somewhere in the hall and later spread to other parts. Bhagyarekha had called her daughter, who lives next door, asking her to rescue her as “fire had broken out in the hall”, the police said.

Sunanda, a software engineer who lives in the flat below in Ashrith Aspire apartment complex, told The Hindu

that she did not hear the sound of any explosion when the fire broke out. “We first saw smoke, then we were alerted of the fire, and we ran out of the house. We heard sounds like someone moving around furniture in the flat above, but no explosion,” she said.

As she ran out of the apartment and saw the fire in the flat above, she and her husband rushed back in to try to save Bhagyarekha and her mother, Lakshmidevi, 82, but in vain.

“The sight of the woman [Bhagyarekha] on fire in the balcony was horrifying. There was a lot of smoke and we couldn’t go near the flat,” she said.

Naveen Kishor, who lives in the complex, said he was working at home when the fire broke out. “After a few moments, the window panes shattered with a huge sound. Many confused the sound with a blast,” he said.

After an inspection, Bescom cleared all, but eight flats, in the complex for reoccupation. Bescom had cut power supply to the entire complex and the BBMP had evacuated all residents of the 72 flats as the fire broke out. “We have started moving back in. In the eight flats around flat no. 210 where the fire broke out, the wiring needs to be checked for safety, the agency has informed us,” said a resident.

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Sagar Biswas

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