On the day of the killer fire in the Villaggio Mall, the country’s fire safety authorities had for a third day in a row told the mall’s management that the complex’s fire hose was not working and asked them to fix the problem, a court was told yesterday.
Civil Defence officials had on May 26, 27 and 28, 2012 — the day of the devastative blaze that claimed 19 lives — asked the mall’s management to make sure the high-pressure fire hose attached to the complex’s plumbing system worked.
Also, according to Civil Defence officials, on the walls in the enclosure of the mall that caught fire was used a painting material that was highly inflammable and that might have led to the rapid spread of the fire.
The chemical, combined with cool air of the air-conditioning systems, caused thick smoke, which gushed into the ill-fated nursery where all the 19 deaths took place, the court was told.
“We had been warning the mall’s management against using inflammable material since 2007, but our warnings were ignored,” a witness from the Civil Defence told a criminal court here yesterday which is hearing the mall fire case.
Reliable sources told The Peninsula yesterday that the above witness was one of the three from the Civil Defence who testified in the court yesterday. The lower criminal court has finally begun its proceedings in the case.
The hearing that began at 10am went on for almost four hours with a 30-minute break, sources said. Present were, among others, the parents of many of the 13 small children who perished in the inferno.
The court had to — for technical reasons — put off the trial several times since charges were filed by the Prosecution and the date of the first hearing (September 6) had been announced.
Upon hearing the above depositions from the Civil Defence witnesses, the Prosecution insisted in the court that charges of intended murder be pressed against the accused. The court, however, ignored the Prosecution’s plea.
Another Civil Defence official, deposing as a witness, said the mall had been told by them that the complex’s fire hose was not working and that the situation be rectified immediately.
“We had told the mall’s management of this problem on May 26 and 27 as well as on May 28 (the day of the fire) but mall officials ignored our warning,” the witness added.
One of the defence lawyers argued that the court was not competent to hear the case because it was a criminal trial. The argument was ruled out.
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