After two hours of struggle, the fire was completely doused and the dry grass present inside the lot was the reason for the fire to spread through the complex.
CHENNAI: As many as 176 cars were gutted in a major fire in the parking lot of a private taxi operator in Porur on Sunday. According to an eyewitness, the fire broke out at 2 pm and was brought under control by 4.15 pm.
Six fire tenders from Poonamallee, Virugambakkam, Maduravoyal, Ashok Nagar, Guindy, and Avadi and a Chennai Corporation Metro Water tanker were used to douse the fire at the 32-acre lot across the Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Hospital.
The entire property was engulfed in flames, making it difficult for the firemen to enter. Further, the Metro Water tanker broke down near the entrance, blocking the entry of the fire tenders.
District Fire Officer P Saravanan said that around 250 cars were parked in the lot owned by C Sivasankaran, who runs the taxi service. “Most of the cars, parked on the lot for more than six months, were in faulty condition. The man in charge should have taken care of the land by cleaning it regularly.”
“The lot is littered with more than three-feet of dry leaves and woods. According to preliminary investigations, the fire began in the dry woods near the last row of cars and spread across other rows,” Saravanan said.
Some locals alleged that the fire engine didn’t enter the yard for nearly 30 minutes and by that time, fire had engulfed the entire yard. Refuting this allegation, Saravanan said that since smoke engulfed the entire area, it was difficult for the firemen to identify the spot and moreover, the Metro Water tanker lorry blocked the way and delayed the process.
Yet the fire service team managed to save 32 cars, he added. According to records, 176 cars were gutted completely while 42 cars had minor burns and 32 had no scratch.
C Sivasankaran, who also happens to be the founder of telecom company Aircel, started the cab service ‘UTOO’ in Chennai in 2016. According to sources, for the past one year, the service has not been doing well, and only 30 cabs were running across the city. The others were kept in the lot for maintenance.
Joint Commissioner of Police (West) B Vijayakumari, who reached the spot, said an enquiry was on to ascertain the reason for the fire. “Only one security guard was present at the entrance and some other men were inside when the incident happened.” The SRMC police have registered a case and are investigating.
“The lot has seen minor fires in the bushes and dry trees more than five times in the past six months,” said A Raja, a resident of Iyyappanthangal.
The police said that they were inquiring with the 50-year-old security guard about the cause of the fire and had summoned Sivasankaran. They suspect if the fire was intentionally set up to claim insurance money since the service was not functioning for a long time.