'I climbed down the pipe to safety'
Survivors narrate their ordeal and the extreme steps they took to escape the fire at Mantralaya
Of the 16 people, who sustained injuries in the major fire at Mantralaya yesterday, one Hemant Khaire, is said to be critical. He was admitted to the ICU at St George Hospital. Doctors said that his lungs were filled with excess carbon dioxide due to inhalation of smoke. Apart from St George Hospital, the injured were rushed to G T Hospital, Nair Hospital and J J Hospital.
Those who survived the disaster, unhurt, speculated that short-circuit in one of the air conditioners on the fourth floor was the firestarter. They also pointed out that the building was ill-equipped with firefighting facilities and the rescue operation, which started late, appeared inefficient.
The lucky ones
Narrating his ordeal, Shivaji Patil (42), an employee in Mantralaya, who was attending a meeting when the fire broke out, said, “I was on the sixth floor when the mishap occurred. With people running around to save their lives, it was utter chaos inside the building. To avoid the chaos, I climbed out of a window, and used a pipe to climb down to safety. My hands got bruised in the attempt to save my life. I consider myself extremely lucky as I managed to escape unhurt, however, I’m still in a state of shock.”
Ganesh Pere (45) said, “I had come to meet an official, and was on the fourth floor, when suddenly the room got clogged with smoke. Taking no chances, I immediately ran down to safety using the stairway, as the lift wasn’t working. Those who used the lift were stuck inside as the lights went out the moment the fire broke.”
Pyaare Khan (34), a builder from Nagpur, said, “I was here with a collector from Nagpur and was on the fifth floor when we heard sirens. Once the fire reached the fifth floor, people around me panicked, and ran for their lives. The building was devoid of adequate firefighting facilities. I was lucky to escape without a scratch. Even the rescue operation stared late and seemed inefficient.”
‘Firefighters saved us’
Former RTA member Baba Shinde from Pune said that he owed his life to the firefighters. He said that he was in Mantralaya to attend a meeting with the Transport Commissioner when he saw smoke billowing from the fourth floor. He said, “At first we thought that it must be a minor fire, but soon everything was engulfed in smoke. Thirteen of us, including me, took cover in the toilet located on the fifth floor. Unfortunately, the door got jammed, and we were trapped inside for over an hour.”
Shinde said that it was the firefighters who broke open the door following which all the 13 people ran to safety. “As everybody was running for their life, the stairway was choked with people, but I somehow managed to reach the second floor. Realising that waiting for help could prove dangerous, I jumped out of the window, and landed on the vehicles parked below. I injured an arm and a leg. But considering the kind of adversity I was faced with, it was necessary to take that risk.” Shinde said that the lack of announcement about the disaster made the situation go from bad to worse.
(With inputs from Kaumudi Gurjar)