Karnataka: Fire in church near Bangalore

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Bangalore, Oct 14: Priests and the police differ over the cause of a fire in a church on the outskirts of Bangalore, near Attibele, early on Monday, Oct 13.

While the church authorities say it was set on fire by miscreants, the police and Forensic Science Laboratory officials are of the view that electric short-circuit was the cause of the fire. Copies of Bible and musical instruments were destroyed in the fire at St. Anthony's Church at Yedavana Halli, 35 km from the city. Members of various organisations held a protest in front of the church and urged the State Government to take stringent action against the miscreants. Two armed policemen were supposedly on guard round-the-clock in view of the recent attacks on churches across the State.

"The fire was a planned attack by some miscreants," claimed Father Santhosh, priest of the church. "Two policemen were deployed to guard the church. Around 12.30 a.m. they left the place. Taking advantage of this, the miscreants barged into the church and set it ablaze," he said.

"Copies of the Bible, choir song books, Infant Jesus idols, materials used for mass, pianos, dress materials of Father, 'param prasadam' box, flower vase, candle vase, and other materials worth Rs. 10 lakh, were destroyed in the fire," he said. Preliminary investigations indicate that short-circuit was the cause of the fire, claimed police officials. "A team led by Assistant Director of Forensic Science Laboratory Mallesh inspected the church. The Electrical Inspector P N Appacchu and a technical team from Bangalore Electric Supply Company (BESCOM) also visited the spot. According to them, Short-circuit is the cause," a police officer, who did not want to be named, said.

According to the police, though the church was recently constructed, it had no fire alarm. The MCB distribution board (which trips power in case of an overload) and switch gears of the church were defunct. The MCB did not break the circuit when the fire happened. Sixteen mm cables were used in the church for power supply. Those cables could not bear the power fluctuation. This might have caused the fire, the officer said.

Two fire engines put out the fire. Father Santhosh had filed a complaint and investigation is on, the Attibele police said. "I inspected the church and will submit a report to the Government. Electric wiring has melted. The police, Fire and Emergency Services, BESCOM and other officials have to send their reports. The police should also record statements of church authorities, eye-witnesses and local people. Based on those reports and a scientific investigation, the exact reason can be known," Mr. Appacchu said.

Meanwhile, residents of Yedavana Halli complained they had been facing frequent electric short-circuit and urged the Government to set it right. "Due to the high voltage, several laptops, TV sets and electronic gadgets got damaged recently in several houses at Adigondana Halli, three km from the church. I too lost my laptop," Father Santhosh said.

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