Papri Sri Raman in Madras
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has said that Rs 50,000 each would be paid to the families of the 25 mentally ill patients who were killed in a fire that broke out early on Monday at an asylum near Erwadi dargah, about 25 km from Ramanathapuram.
Five patients, who were injured while trying to escape, will be paid Rs 15,000 each, the chief minister said.
The 25 patients who died could not escape because they were chained to their
beds and large stones.
The tragedy was compounded because the only fire tender at Erwadi was under
repairs and it took nearly two hours for firemen to reach from the nearest town.
Even the charred bodies, burnt beyond recognition, remained chained by their ankles, witnesses said.
The dead included 14 men and 11 women. The tragedy has again brought to focus on the many privately run mental asylums where, rights activists say, the conditions are appalling.
The fire broke out at 5.30 am and engulfed a palm-thatched hut that housed 45 patients.
Cinders from a burning oil lamp reportedly caused the fire.
"It was a disaster waiting to happen," said a police officer in Madras, recalling that the government had warned four years ago about the terrible state of affairs in the shelters around Erwadi. "Little has been done to rectify matters," the officer told Indo-Asian News Service.
Four people, including the asylum's owner, were arrested following the tragedy.
Indo-Asian News Service
ALSO SEE25 inmates of mental asylum in TN charred to death
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