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Crores to ashes, hopes and dreams to dust

Shop owners, who lost goods worth lakhs in the fire that gutted Crawford Market on Saturday morning, face an uphill task to rebuild their lives and recover their money

Narendra Mali is a broken man. The 19 year-old was to inaugurate his maiden toy shop in Manish Market on Monday, but his material, worth Rs 1 lakh, was burnt down in the major fire that engulfed major shopping complexes in South Mumbai's 40 year-old Crawford Market in the wee hours of Saturday.


A shop owner despairs even as flames rage in the major fire that broke
out on Saturday morning near Crawford Market at Mohammed Ali Road.
PIC Santosh Nagwekar


The blaze started around 3.40 am in the Sara-Sahara Mall, and quickly spread to the adjoining Manish Market and Mohta Market, both known for electrical consumer goods sold there. Billowing smoke and the narrow lanes of Crawford Market further hampered rescue operations, in which four firemen were injured.

The Sara-Sahara Market, close to the Mumbai Police Commissionerate at Crawford Market houses a large number of temporary plastic sheds, not concrete shops, and has been in the news for its reported ownership by absconding mafia don Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar.

Sewree resident Mali, who hails from Rajasthan, says, "For two years I was working as an employee with a shop within Sara-Sahara Market. On Monday I was going to open my own toy shop, and had even prepared the board, naming it Rameeza Toys. I had also stored material worth Rs 1 lakh in the new shop, but everything has turned to ash. I got a call late at night, telling me about the fire, and spent all day crying," Even worse, all the material that was burnt down were bought on a loan.

Chief Minister Prithiviraj Chavan visited Manish market in the day and met the traders, while BMC Commissioner Subodh Kumar said that 25 fire tenders had been sent to control the fire at the location. Although casualties have not been reported yet, around 280 shops inside Manish Market have been damaged, while an estimated 500 shops have been gutted in the fire.

One of those is Sajid Khan's mobile shop owner in Sara-Sahara market. "When I got a call about the fire, I started running towards the shop from my home in Byculla. I couldn't even save a single mobile cover from my shop as everything was turned into ashes." Like him, Sion resident Raj Kumar, who owns an electronics shop in Manish Market said, "When I entered the shop, half of the products were burnt while others were floating in water. I have lost everything."

Amin Patel, an MLA from Mumbadevi (C Ward) heaped praise on local residents. "There are about 1,000 shops in the area. Residents pitched in and brought 10 water tankers from a private water supplier, which helped control the flames."

Dr Kanchan Banavalikar, medical health officer, BMC, added, "We also pitched in with oxygen masks and food from for local shopkeepers and residents who were trying to save their shops."

Irfan Shaikh, an eyewitness said, "The fire officials arrived here without torches. We gave them torches to help enter the market. I work as an employee in a mobile phone accessories shop and depended on my daily income. Now I will be unemployed for at least a month since we'll take that long to recover from the fire." At the time of going to press, the cause of the fire remained unknown, while 8-10 fire engines were stationed at Manish market, trying to control the persistent conflagration.

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