Capt Amit Singh, who runs NGO Safety Matters Foundation, recently wrote to the Airport Authority of India (AAI), the Anna International Airport Director and the fire department in Chennai in this regard.
According to him, the security hold area of the international departure hall at the newly commissioned New Integrated Terminal Building has not complied with fire safety norms mandated by regulations.
When contacted, none of the stakeholders – AAI, the airport director or the Chennai fire department – responded.
“While EXIT signs have been installed, they lead to Emergency Access doors that have been sealed by installing sheets which cover the proposed exits from frame to frame,” Capt Singh claimed. He added, “There is no sign or indication that shows that the exits are closed and should not be used in the event of an emergency exit nor are alternative exits marked or provided.” Drawing a parallel with the lapse in the Uphaar Cinema tragedy on 13th June 1997, Singh said, “One of the reasons for the high casualty in the Uphaar Cinema tragedy was the fact that the exits from the cinema were locked.” “The sealed exits at the airport have the potential of causing harm to the occupants in the event of smoke and/fire. Death due to inhalation of smoke is the fastest, typically in a few minutes,” he said.
Another well-known aviation safety expert Mohan Ranganathan, who was part of the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Committee (CASAC) constituted by the Civil Aviation Ministry, echoed Singh’s views, claiming there are violations in the main building where several EXIT gates are locked.
“I have highlighted it in my tweets several times but it seems that nobody bothers. Unfortunately, even human tragedies do not wake up public authorities,” Capt Ranganathan said.
An airport source claimed there are a total of eight fire exit doors at the newly commissioned terminal at Anna International Airport and if they are kept unlocked for fire exit, the airport security will be compromised.
“We need deployment of additional security personnel at these eight exit doors to guard them round the clock.
“Perhaps, the authorities feel that it is a waste of manpower to deploy them there. Everyone is aware of the violation but no one wants to talk about it,” the source claimed.