Two people have died in the major fire that has engulfed the Maharashtra Mantralaya or secretariat here Thursday.
Fire brigade officials said two bodies were recovered from the sixth floor of the seven-storey 'Mantralaya'. While one body was found in the committee room of the Deputy CM Ajit Pawar's office, another was found in the nearby waiting hall.
Both the deceased hailed from Baramati. While Umesh Poteykar was former chief of the Baramati Bank, Mahesh Gugale was a businessman. Both had gone to meet Pawar.
Sixteen others were injured in the incident of which one is said to be critical. Two of the Maharashtra CM's security guards -- Tukaram More and Mohan More -- are reportedly missing.
Chief fire officer Suhas Joshi has said that while the fire has been brought under control, cooling operations were underway and would continue for the next 48 hours.
Meanwhile, in a late development, a minor blast occurred in the Mantralaya canteen, but the flames were brought under control.
Maharashtra Chief Secretary J.K. Banthia said the dozens who had been trapped in the seven-floor building had been taken out. "There are no more people inside," he told the media.
But the press conference also attended by some ministers turned stormy after journalists and a section of secretariat employees demanded to know how such an inferno could spread so fast in a high security complex.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan, whose office was gutted, looked sombre as he entered the complex with the building still on fire in the evening. He avoided journalists.
Close to two hours after it was first noticed near the cabin of Tribal Welfare Minister Babanrao Pachpute on the fourth floor, the fire continued to rage till late in the afternoon even as fire fighters battled the leaping flames.
There was no immediate report of any casualty but several people were suspected trapped on the upper floors and terrace, prompting authorities to press into service contingents of the elite commandos of Force One and city police's Quick Response Teams. Two teams from the naval dockyard were also rushed.
Panic gripped the sprawling building, the seat of state administration, after the fire, first noticed around 2.45 pm, spread swiftly to fifth, sixth and seventh floors. Towering plumes of blinding smoke soon engulfed the building making it difficult for the fire brigade to evacuate the stranded.
Many could be seen rappelling down the ropes and drain pipes in a desperate attempt to escape.
According to sources, the Urban Development Department, which is embroiled in a controversy over the Adarsh scam, and departments of Home, Revenue and Industries were the worst affected by the fire.
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