When 18-year-old Gowalia Tank resident Shivani Desai took her preliminary exams for Std XII earlier this month, she found a question in her English paper asking candidates to write a report – one of the topics was ‘Freak fire in high-rise’.
Mahendra Desai, fire officer at Gowalia Tank station, with his daughter Shivani at his Tardeo flat. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Shivani is the daughter of Mahendra Desai, one of the five firemen who had braved the flames to douse the fire in Mont Blanc building at Kemps Corner, on December 13. Seven had perished in the incident. The teenager, who studies at K C College in Churchgate, said that it didn’t take her much time to put down her thoughts into words, as she had heard the entire incident unfold before her. Her father, along with four others, was admitted to the National Burns Centre, Airoli, after suffering burns during their work.
Sunil Naik, with 27 per cent burns, had the maximum injuries and is still recovering at National Burns Centre, Airoli
Her father is back home. Mahendra Desai (47), fire station officer at Gowalia Tank, suffered 17 per cent burns on a portion of his face, hand and shoulder. Others from the same fire station were: fireman Kamlakar Waman Karnekar (48) with 14 per cent burns on parts of his hands, face and chest, fireman Sandeep Kumar Godke (26) with 19 per cent burns, and fireman Sunil Appa Naik (30) with 27 per cent burns. Rajendra Dande (43), from Byculla fire station, suffered 7 per cent burns.
Rajendra Dande resumed work at Byculla fire station on January 15
Speaking to MiD DAY, Shivani said, “Although I had an option to answer another question, I decided to write a report on the fire, as it’s very recent and the thoughts were still fresh in my mind. I had overheard my father saying how the fire broke out at 7.30 pm and how he and his colleagues immediately rushed to the spot.
However, the unexpected cylinder blast was what injured my father.” Within minutes of starting to write the report, the girl had filled up almost the whole page and had included each and every minute detail of what happens when a fire breaks out.
Along with including her father’s name, she also mentioned the names of his colleagues. “I knew Waman uncle, Dande uncle and Sunil uncle were injured in the accident along with my father and, hence, added that part in my report, too.
I also added a quote in my copy, which I had read in MiD DAY, which mentioned an official saying that the loss caused could have been reduced had people not panicked,” narrated Shivani, adding that she was proud of her father and the job he does in saving lives.
Sunil Naik, who suffered maximum burns, is still in National Burns Centre. “It’s been over a month since I was admitted to the hospital. Being the first one to be hit by the cylinder blast, my injuries are the most severe. My one-year-old daughter Sayee is generally not allowed to be brought to the ward, as the doctors are scared she may get infected. But, she waves out to me from below the hospital.
I underwent two skin grafting operations and I hope to recover soon.” However, Rajendra Dande, station officer at Byculla fire station, resumed work on January 15. He says that since he suffered the least percentage of burns, he was able to join back earlier than the others.
Excerpts from Shivani’s report
January 4: A fire broke out in a high-rise building of South Mumbai, which claimed several lives. Although initially, there were reports of a mild fire coming in, but a cylinder blast, which took place on the 11th floor of the building, is what aggravated the situation.
The 13th floor of Mont Blanc, a building at Kemps Corner, caught fire. Five brave firemen entered the building and took the stairs to the 13th floor where the fire had broke out initially. However, they were not able to move beyond the 11th floor, as a cylinder blast took place, injuring the firemen who were trying to make their way up.
Mahendra Desai, Waman, Dande (she could not remember their full names, considering she referred to them as ‘uncle’), along with two other colleagues, were injured in the accident. A fire official said that had people not panicked, the loss would have been much less.