Colaba Fire: Post blaze, illegal hawkers in BMC's firing line

BMC has started demolishing carts and shops on the footpath below the building

Is it the start of the end for illegal hawkers on Colaba Causeway? The fire inside Metro House has apparently triggered the process of evacuating the hawkers, which began on the intervening night Thursday and Friday. Locals claim the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) started demolishing carts and shops on the footpath right below Metro House.

Also read: Massive fire guts 50 per cent of heritage Metro House in South Mumbai

Around 700 air conditioners acted as a deterrent in the fire-fighting operations. The officials claim such a large number of ACs is surprising and could affect the condition of the structure, which is over a century old. Pic/Suresh KK
Around 700 air conditioners acted as a deterrent in the fire-fighting operations. The officials claim such a large number of ACs is surprising and could affect the condition of the structure, which is over a century old. Pic/Suresh KK

On the night of June 2, once the fire was doused the hawkers were seen fleeing to their respective stalls. The shopkeepers immediately downed their shutters while the streetside hawkers – both legal and illegal – began picking up whatever wares had fallen on the footpath and covered it with plastic sheets.

Also read: Colaba fire: Busy clicking pictures, crowd blocks fire engines

Soon after, the police came running and shooed them away. "There is possibility that these people could be thieving," said a police officer. But at around 2.30 am, the authorities came and started removing illegal stalls on the footpath. The hawkers protested, but BMC officials said this was required to prevent any further problem while they conduct their structural audit. By yesterday, the stalls and hawkers were evacuated and the footpaths were cleared.

BMC authorities claim they will also start taking down other illegal hawkers in the days to come. "These hawkers and their stalls certainly created problems during fire fighting," said a fire officer, who was involved in dousing operation.

In pictures: Fire engulfs commercial area in Colaba, Mumbai

Structural audit
The BMC along with other authorities will not only carry out structural audit of this Metro House but also likely to be done for other heritage buildings along the Causeway. All these buildings have wooden flooring and stairs from within, which too are probably not in maintained condition. "We will be carrying out structural audit on the building and remove the hawkers," said Idzes Kundan, additional municipal corporator, BMC. While doing the structural audit, the officials will be taking the air-conditioners in the area into consideration as well. "[Among] the problems that fire fighters faced were the 700-odd air-conditioners that aggravated the situation and [slowed down] containing fire," Kundan added.

The officials claim such a huge number of air-conditioners surely is surprising and could affect the condition of the structure, which is over a century old. The authorities say they want to check the condition of other buildings there as well. MP Arvind Sawant had told mid-day that the old buildings in south Mumbai need a major revamp and structural audit.

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