A major disaster was averted in Port City when 45 fishing boats were destroyed in the fishing harbor late on the night of November 19 (Sunday).
The fire can be seen from a few nautical miles out to sea, and from the Simhachalam area of the city, which is about 25 kilometers from the fishing harbour.
The motorized boats that were moored next to the pier caught fire successively, and the diesel tanks and liquefied petroleum gas cylinders in each of these boats exploded within minutes due to excessive heat.
Fortunately, the fire did not spread to the gasoline and diesel station of one major oil company and the pipelines of the fuel storage and pumping station of another major oil company, which were located adjacent to the accident site.
“While extinguishing the fire was one of our immediate tasks, the imminent danger it posed made the task more difficult. If the fire or the excessive heat it generated had reached gas stations or pipelines, the city would have witnessed a major disaster, the impact of which would have been felt throughout An area of a few square kilometers.
The incident happened at around 11.30pm on November 19, and Mr Reddy moved in with his team within a few minutes.
“My experience in the Fire Services Department helped me in the early days. I kept at least one fire engine active to cool down the fuel station and pipelines,” Mr Reddy said.
The process of extinguishing the fire took about four hours, and 11 fire engines were sent to the scene.
Police Commissioner A. Ravi Shankar: “It was a well-coordinated effort, where multiple agencies like Civil Police, Marine Police, Eastern Naval Command, Coast Guard and even initial support units like VSP and HPCL were involved.” .
Foam carrying firefighting vessels from HPCL and VSP were ordered to deal with the inferno from the quayside, while ENC and Coast Guard personnel sprayed water and foam from the seashore using floating platforms.
The police suspect that this was the work of a few miscreants who were having a party on one of the boats. This highlights the gaps in the public security system.
The fishing port falls under the Visakhapatnam Port Authority (VPA), but security is not under the Central Intelligence Security Force (CISF).
Technically, the area falls under the jurisdiction of One-Town Police Station, but despite it being a sensitive area, there is no CISF or police picket. There is a marine police station, but its role is mainly limited to checking infiltrations. There are no surveillance cameras, and a few of them are not working.
“It is known that the port area is frequented by anti-social elements, and is located in a sensitive area. Motorized boats sail more than 100 to 150 nautical miles and return with a catch a day or two later. “It is difficult to monitor what goes out and what comes in,” says a senior officer, noting that the marine police suffer from a serious shortage of staff, equipment and boats.
None of the 18 patrol boats, of 6-ton and 12-ton capacity, are operational and are expected to patrol Andhra Pradesh’s 974-kilometre-long coastline.
“Despite numerous suggestions and requests made by various motorboat operator associations to station at least one fire truck at the harbour, no steps have been taken in this regard,” says Vasubally Janakiram, of the Motorized Fishing Boat Association.
According to the officials concerned, the new modern fishing port to be set up at the same place with funding from the Union government at a cost of Rs 150 crore will have all the facilities, including CCTV network and fire fighting system.