Major fire broke out in the iconic National Museum in Delhi on late Monday night. The six-storied National Museum of Natural History is located in Mandi House, near Connaught Place beside the FICCI premises, New Delhi, exhibiting many rare specimens and taxidermied animals.
The National Museum of Natural History was established in 1972 to promote environmental awareness and a popular site for about 1,000 visitors including school children visit every day. The museum collection included a 160 million-year-old fossil bone of a lizard-footed dinosaur, sauropod. It also had stuffed animals made by renowned Mysore-based taxidermists Van Ingen and Van Ingen. In fact, the Museum also has an extensively rare collection of films on wildlife, herpetological specimen, as well as galleries on origin and evolution of life, ecology, conservation of nature, the food chain with different flora and fauna, conservation and the environment in general and frequently holds screenings for the public. There are around 34 museums (under the Ministry) including ones of Zoological Survey of India and Botanical Survey of India. The National Museum of Natural History in New Delhi is one of two museums focusing on nature in India and functions under the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The fire started to break out between 1:30 am and 2:00 am from the top floor of the museum building on Tansen Road where some repair work is going on and the fire quickly engulfed the other floors of the museum building.
A senior police official said that they are speechless about the causes of fire and investigation is still going on.
Fire officials said that 40 fire tenders were rushed to the spot. As many as 35 fire tenders were pressed into service. It took firefighters more than 4 hours to extinguish the flame after which a cooling operation was launched which lasted for another few hours. Fire officials also said that by the time the blaze was controlled, only the ground and first floors of the building survived. The sprinklers and water pumps in the building failed to work; the fire was finally exterminated this morning at 5:00 am.
Six fire officials were rushed to the near-by hospital after they inhaled excessive smoke during the four-hour operation to control the blaze that broke out at 1:45 AM. As per report their condition is said to be stable now.
Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who visited the spot, described the fire mishap as unfortunate and commented that “This is a rented property. Its not the Ministry’s property, but a FICCI property. Therefore, we have limitations. The issue is that this is a real loss and we will assess the loss when the building is again handed over to us”. The Minister also ordered a safety audit of all museums under his jurisdiction.
There were not too many people in the building, which was evacuated by the time fire officials reached the scene.