Around 8.45 pm, patients in the ward saw fumes emanating from a split air conditioner and alerted hospital authorities. Patients’ attendants and relatives began carrying them out. The power supply to the ward, which had 46 patients, was cut off. It added to the confusion when people inside the hospital were jostling to rush out.
Some patients complained that the hospital did not react with the urgency with which it should have to tackle the fire outbreak. “When the AC started burning, the hospital authorities didn’t take any action to control the fire,” said Ellappan of Muthrangam, whose brother was admitted for treatment. “We all carried the patients and ran way from the ward which was filled with smoke,” said Pandian of Tirukalikundram. His brother was undergoing treatment for a injury.
Divisional Fire Officer, North Chennai, D N Velayudhan Nair told to this website’s newspaper that the Fire and Rescue Service control room received the fire alarm call at 9.40 pm. Two fire engines put out the fire within 15 minutes. He said an electric short circuit had caused the fire. As an oxygen cylinder pipe was passing near the AC, the hospital authorities stopped the electricity supply to the ward, otherwise oxygen supply to the other wards would have been affected, he added.