I happened to be one of the unfortunate beings to view the fire accident at Carlton Towers at the proximity of hardly 150 meters. This is a second time I am witnessing an act of God (though this is not a natural calamity and could have been avoided, I would stick to be philosophical and say ‘Its an act of God and its all fate’ just to escape myself from the guilt feeling of not being able to help). First was the tsunami of 2004 that hit the eastern shores of India. I was there in the Marina beach playing cricket with my buddies when we all saw the water creeping in and fled for life. But, the accident at Carlton towers was more disheartening. I turned my back towards the tsunami and fled the scene so the effect was not too much.
My state of mind as I was viewing the incident from my office balcony was sheer anger and helplessness. I knew I can’t help by breaking in to the opposite building to save the people; I knew I cannot pelt stones to break the glasses in the 7th floor; I knew ambulance and fire department are already here; I knew people are already holding placards pleading those entrapped in the opposite building not to jump down from the top floors and to break glasses to let the smoke out; I also knew police and media are already there clearing the traffic. So I stood watching the whole incident not able to help more than praying for the people there. The anger did disturb me a bit but I chose to be philosophical and blamed the fate and the felt the stress relieve a bit.
One thing that I observed was that the shape of the building did not allow the fire-fighters to easily climb to the top floor and there was no solid base in the middle to place the ladder and climb. (It’s a different fact that the turntable ladder arrived only after the building was evacuated and used for taking pictures of the place). The ERT were throwing ropes from the terrace before completely securing the other end. Thankfully, the person who held the rope mindfully waited for the signal from above and finally gave up the idea. There were also few jumps causing casualties. A survivor, in the tv interview, told that there was no water in the first fire-truck which arrived at the scene after 30 minutes. We had to believe his stand as we literally saw it evidently. In the only attempt they tried to use water the pressure was not enough even to reach the 3rd floor of the 7-storey building. As I expected, instead of awareness, the accident triggered blame-game. The officials declared the building did not follow safety measures, the fire-truck was late due to heavy traffic, the heavy traffic is due to bad road planning and the ripple goes on and I am not expecting this to settle down soon. I, like the rest of the Indian citizens, am used to this kind of situations. Negligence has become a national character as rightly pointed out in the tamil movie ‘Anniyan’.
The one that was nudging me was that onlookers became too sentimental and angry that they were not of any kind of help. Yes, it can be there for a while but it should not cause sleep deprivation. If you were able to help at that time it would have been well and good. But that doesn’t mean that we have to dwindle in the sense of guilt that we were not of any kind of help. It‘s going to disrupt only our peace. As far as I am considered, there is no use repenting after everything is over. My company did the right thing (at least to most of the onlookers) by bringing in counselors to let us know how to cope up with such pressures.
And the media, I don’t have any words for them. In olden days, there was only one television channel, two news a day and productive and prioritized news were delivered. Now with the advent of too many specialist news channels and too many employees surfaces the Darwin’s theory – survival of the fittest. They make news even out of shit and no wonder this incident is a big boon for them. I sometime feel they make the news (remember the storyline of James Bond flick ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’???) They don’t mind showing even the most sensitive clipping. And they start blaming the political parties. Boss, we know about the political parties – show us something different. We are fed up of politicians being ripped when such an incident occurs. We are looking for answers beyond blames. What next? But hey, they helped people forget this gory incident. We had railway budget and Sachin’s blazing innings of 200 the next day. Not the blazing building any more.
Let us all not lose hope that things will change and we have a better place to live in.