The raging fire has been subdued and many of the villagers of Saipem, Candolim, at the bottom of the hill where Berger Becker Costings Pvt Ltd company is situated have started returning home after spending a night of uncertainty away from home.
Natividade Fernandes, Resident
“It was frightening last night. At first, I thought it was thundering, but when I went out to check there were black clouds moving towards us. I told my wife it was surely going to rain. She laughed at me and that made me climb the terrace and I was horrified when I saw the fire and the cloud of smoke,” recollects Natividade Fernandes.
“ I and my wife left home around 9 pm and went to spend the night with our daughter in Vasco. We were scared to leave the house because we were unsure whether the fire would advance towards our house and unsure whether robbers would capitalize and break into our house,” he narrated.
The fires that started at the Berger paint factory in Pilerne Industrial Estate were noticed by some villagers of Saipem at around 3 pm. Worry started to set in the minds of the people - there are residences, guest houses and luxury hotels in Saipem- at around 5 pm when the flames could be seen bellowing and the smoke traversing with the winds.
“I was fishing in Nerul from where I saw the flames. I rushed back to the hotel and it was frightening. Blasts could be heard and at one stage it looked like the fire would come down and engulf the place. We shifted with our guests to a hotel in Saligao,” stated Dhruv, manager of Acolmeia residence.
Natty (name changed)
“We returned in the morning after I found on the visit that the fire had subsided and the place was safe,” added Dhruv with relief written large on his face.
“It was frightening in the evening. My cousin who runs a hotel in Candolim sent four of his hotel boys to help get my 87-year-old mother into an ambulance. The boys left after midnight as the ambulances were busy at the site of the fire. By the time the ambulance came, I decided against shifting my mother as the fire seemed under control,” disclosed Natty (Name changed on request), a teacher in a school in the village.
Ritu (Name changed)
“A few neighbours stayed back and the ones who left kept phoning us to check the situation and trying to convince us to leave too,” added Natty.
“The fire showed that the officials did not carry the necessary checks before giving the factory to open shop in a residential area. Hazardous factories should be allowed in places isolated from a village,” moaned Ritu (name changed on request), a resident of a high-end society located in the vicinity of the factory.
“I gather from my sources that wells around this area have been polluted and can no longer be used. It is a pity that basic norms are ignored when such factories are allowed to operate,” she rued.
Raj, hotel employee (Name changed)
“We three were the only guys who stayed in our room. Everybody left the village last night. It was not scary because we knew we would make a dash had things gone bad. Unlike others, we could not move to relatives as we are not from Goa nor could we offer to go and check in some hotel,” claimed Raj (name changed on request), an employee of a hotel, staying as a paying guest in Saipem.
“I had decided to keep my shop closed today but as I called up my friends in the morning, I realised that most shops had opened and so I too came and opened mine,” admitted Ajinkya , owner of a wine shop.
“We didn’t decide to go as we thought the fire was manageable around 7 pm. The smell was Ok or at least we did not get foul smell from the fire. Of course, windows were closed in the evening. We are not in a position to say about the level of pollution now but time will tell,” thinks Rachel Fernandes.
“ I had a message from the school my children go to that today was a holiday,” she added.
Firemen were seen sitting or chatting around the factory with no sense of stress as the fire was well under control. “Despite the fire being under control, a few of us will be staying back for the night to make sure that it does not break again as paints are stored in the basement and the slabs are damaged. We are on containment mode now,” said a firefighter.
With the fire under control and the residents of Saipem returning home - many relieved to see their homes were not broken into - is a good ending to a scary night.