Four people were killed and at least 16 injured in a major fire at the Crystal Tower residential apartments near Hindmata Cinema in Mumbai's Parel area on Wednesday, officials said.
Rescuers faced a tough time to evacuate people from the 12th floor, where the fire broke out, and floors above as billowing smoke blocked all staircases and other exits, while the building’s own fire fighting system was not working. Cranes had to be used to bring out the people. It was also later found that the building did not have an occupation certificate.
Confirming the deaths, Avinash Supe, dean KEM hospital said, “Total 20 victims were brought to the hospital. Four are dead, one of them a woman. Other 16 patients, six of them women, are stable.”
BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation’s disaster management cell said that a human organ was also found and it was being checked if it was one of the bodies of the four dead.
The fire started from the electrical wiring kept in the duct area, ANI quoted a fire official as saying.
“The area around the lift of the 12th floor was the worst affected. Fire in the electrical wiring kept in duct area had caused smoke and heat on the entire floor, because of which people on upper floors were trapped,” he said.
Chief fire officer P Rahangdale said, “There was a lot of smoke on the 12th floor where the fire started, and the floors above. Smoke was logged in the staircase and all exits.”
The fire that started from the 12th floor at 8.55 am was doused by 10.15 am. The fire brigade had to break the latches and doors to enter houses looking for trapped people. Two of the firefighters were also injured and taken to hospital.
Deputy chief fire officer R Chaudhari said, “Height and congestion proved a major challenge in fire fighting. And the building’s fire fighting system was not working, so that is a major problem in dealing with highrise fires.”
No injuries were reported among those rescued from the top floors but the people were taken to KEM hospital for check ups. Two of those trapped were found unconscious.
Ten year old Zen Sadawarkar, who lives on the 16th floor and was rescued by the fire brigade said, “there was smoke everywhere, and we heard people calling out to us, so we rushed to the window. Later, the fire brigade personnel brought us down.”
The cause of the fire is not yet known. Twenty fire tenders were rushed to the spot, the BMC disaster management officials said.
The fire was initially categorized as level 2 (medium) but later upgraded to level 4 (major).
Mumbai mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar, who was at the spot, said the building, built in 2013-14 did not have an occupation certificate. In 2016, the building proposal department had served it a notice for unauthorised occupation.
Rahangdale said that the fire brigade has declared the building unsafe and its power and water supply cut off, reported ANI. A case will be registered against the society official responsible for negligence toward fire safety, he added.
On August 13, a level II fire had broken out at a godown in the Parel area and 12 fire tenders were rushed to douse it.
In December last year, 14 people had died in a massive fire at two rooftop pubs in Kamala Mills Compound in central Mumbai.