Massive fire engulfs Satpura Bhawan housing state government offices in Bhopal

Key records may have been destroyed; Congress cries conspiracy; Army called in


A massive fire has engulfed Satpura Bhawan – the Bhopal-based building complex, housing directorate level offices of various departments of Madhya Pradesh—and there is apprehension that many crucial records have been destroyed.

The fire has likely destroyed important documents and infrastructure worth crores of rupees in key departments like chief minister’s coordination, health department, tribal welfare department, transport department and others, mainly housed in the third, fourth fifth and sixth floors of the building, sources said. The documents include those in the complaints section of health department related to complaints of employees/officials to agencies like economic offences wing (EOW) and Lokayukta. The old furniture stored in health department offices following renovation further stoked the fire, apart from the gusty winds.

Fortunately, the building was evacuated in time right after fire erupted around 4.00 pm thereby preventing any loss of life and limb. The offices were full of employees and visitors when the fire erupted, but they were brought out soon.

However, the fire is so massive that about two dozen fire tenders failed to control it in over five hours and it continues to engulf more portions of the six-storey building complex.

Finally, teams of the Army and Airport Authority had to take charge of the situation at around 8.30 pm with sophisticated fire tenders and other equipment and authorities said that fire might be controlled soon.

Earlier, the attempts of the fire tenders of the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, Bhopal Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and other municipal authorities around Bhopal like Mandideep were in vain as the fire could not be controlled.

Bhopal district collector Ashish Singh, who was on the spot, said that 22 fire tenders and 30-40 water tankers had been called earlier, but since there were a lot of files and wooden furniture in the offices, the fire could not be brought under control. He confirmed that Army and Airport Authority teams had arrived and operation was continuing to control the fire and soon it would be controlled.

While it is known that the fire started from the office of regional tribal sub-area planning project on the third floor, the exact cause is yet to be ascertained. Commissioner of Police, Bhopal, Harinarayanchari Mishra said according to preliminary information, the fire started due to a short circuit in an Air-Condition unit on the third floor. He said the priority was to control the fire and other investigations will be done in due time.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was monitoring the situation. “Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouan is continuously monitoring the operations to extinguish the fire in Satpura Bhawan located in Bhopal. On the instructions of the chief minister, the administration along with the Municipal Corporation has immediately called the fire brigades from Army, IOCL, BPCL, Airport, CISF, BHEL, Mandideep and Raisen. CMO (chief minister office) officials are also continuously monitoring the entire operation along with the district administration,” the Twitter account managed by the chief minister’s team said.

Chouhan discussed the situation with Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and sought the help of Air Force to douse the fire. On instruction of the Union minister, an AN32 Aircraft and a MI 15 helicopter will arrive in Bhopal later in the night to join the operations, CM's Twitter handle managed by his team said.

The CM also briefed Home Minister Amit Shah about the incident and sought assistance. Chouhan has also formed a high-level committee headed by additional chief secretary (home) Rajesh Rajora to probe the incident.

Likely conspiracy to destroy evidence of corruption: Congress

Meanwhile, a host of leaders and spokespersons of the opposition Congress raised questions about the massive fire in the key government office complex and alleged that the fire might be a conspiracy to destroy the evidence of corruption by the BJP government out of apprehensions of losing power.

Former president of MP Congress Arun Yadav, former ministers P.C. Sharma and Jitu Patwari and spokespersons like K.K. Mishra and Sangeeta Sharma tweeted to say the fire incident had occurred on the day Priyanka Gandhi launched the poll campaign of the Congress and it might be a way to destroy evidence of corruption. They called it a sign of political change in the state.

Spokesman Bhupendra Gupta, while dubbing the incident “unfortunate”, called for a probe into the exact cause of the fire. Jitu Patwari also mentioned that the government failed to take action and fix accountability of a similar fire incident that occurred in September 2018, ahead of the Assembly polls that year.

The fire was so massive that more than 30 AC units and other equipment and accessories got blasted. The sound of the blast and the flames and smoke from the fire were visible from a long distance.

Fire was still raging at the time of filing of this report at around 9.00 pm.

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