At least seven people were feared dead and six injured in a blaze that engulfed a 26-storey high-rise in Kemps Corner in south Mumbai yesterday when reports last came in. One woman’s body was found in the building’s lobby, while two were recovered from the lift. The others were reportedly found on the 12th, 14th and 19th floors. Six firefighters called to extinguish the blaze sustained burn injuries, and are receiving treatment.
The fire is believed to have started on the 12th floor of Mont Blanc apartments at approximately 7.15 pm. Preliminary inquiries have revealed that the blaze might have broken out due to a leak in the cooking gas pipeline. However, the exact reason could not be ascertained, and fire brigade officials said that only after the department conducted an in-depth probe would details become clearer. Residents of the building said that they first saw the fire roaring from the stairway of the building, and immediately notified the fire brigade.
Twelve engines and four ambulances were rushed to the spot. Fire officials said that their men immediately swung into action, but tragedy struck when they were dousing the flames. As the blaze engulfed the building, an explosion from one of the flats injured the six firemen. Two senior fire officers - Mahendra Desai from Gowalia Tank and Rajendra Dande from Byculla fire station - were among those wounded. Chief fire officer AN Verma confirmed that six of his men were hurt in the inferno.
A fireman, on condition of anonymity, said, “We found it difficult to navigate the fire engines in the narrow space within the building compound. Also, the society has constructed a swimming pool in the compound, which hindered the movement of the fire engines.” The wounded officers were rushed to Breach Candy hospital. Dr Geetika Koppikar, medical director of the institute, said, “Six people were brought to the casualty department. Five are stable and have been shifted to the burns units of other hospitals,” adding, “except one male patient, who sustained 23 per cent burns, the others have suffered minor burns.”
After receiving initial treatment at Breach Candy, one of the firemen was shifted to Nair hospital in Mumbai Central, while five were later transferred to the National Burns Centre in Airoli. One of the staffers at the hospital said that five male patients had been brought there after 11 pm. They were directly rushed to the operation theatre for dressing. Dr R Bharmal, dean of Nair hospital, said, “Firefighter Ravindra Walunj has been admitted here and is under observation.”
MiD DAY managed to get in touch with Walunj. He said he was injured because of two cylinder blasts that took place in one of the flats. “I survived just because I wore a helmet. When we reached the 12th floor to douse the fire, two cylinder blasts took place. I don’t remember what happened after that.”
Additional Commissioner of Police (South) region Krishna Prakash said, “The flat on the 12th floor of Mont Blanc building has been gutted and we have managed to rescue people residing in flats. The building is ground plus 26 floors.”
IA Kundan, secretary, state disaster management, told MiD DAY that they received information from the Mumbai fire brigade officials at 7.57 pm, stating that the call was a class 2 emergency. When asked the cause of the fire, the officer said, “Our priority is to rescue people first and probe the reasons later.”
Every floor in the building has two flats - a 3BHK and a 4BHK. The fire originated in flat number 1201, which was under renovation, according to residents of the building. Filmmaker Dinesh Gandhi’s family stays in flat number 1202. According to the families, there were a lot of wooden planks and chemicals like turpentine kept inside flat 1201, as it was getting refurbished.
The presence of such material meant it took longer for the fire brigade to douse the flames. A person who stayed in a flat on the 24th floor said he was downstairs and his family was trapped inside the building. They were later rushed towards the terrace. At 11.15 pm, the fire was completely extinguished and residents were seen leaving the building to go to the neighbouring residential societies.
I was in the garden area along with a few other residents. While taking a regular walk, I heard some people’s shouts coming from the building. When I looked up towards the building, I saw that it had caught fire on the 12th floor. People were running towards the ground floor and there was chaos all around. Residents called up the fire brigade immediately.
- Indra Golabani, resident of Mont Blanc
I was scared looking at the huge fire. I was on the ground floor and when I saw the flames, I phoned my family members and asked them to come down to safety.
- Jaywanti Anchorwala, 9th floor resident
I saw the fire first around 7.30 pm. I, along with some others, alerted the fire brigade and the police. The police reached the spot first, and then the fire officials came and started rescue work. My friend Bunty came rushing down and I saw that he had a burn mark near his neck. He lives above the 20th floor. Families who stayed above the 12th floor were rushed to the terrace and most of them remained there.
- Jagbir Parmar, who was visiting a friend