The fire at Nayanagar slum in Mahim that apparently began around 4 am on Friday, was evident to the locals only after 20 minutes after it started and was not reported until over an hour later. During this time, the blaze was feeding off of abundant fuel stored up in the shanties.
What aided this catastrophe, which locals say was waiting to happen, was the plentiful quantities of plastic and timbre hoarded illegally in the slum for umpteen reasons. Small recycling units, scrap dealers, disposal units, godowns and many other such enterprises, incidentally all operating illegally, are wont to store such combustible material in acutely unsafe environs, while authorities look away.
Residents said they have lodged complaints to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, but civic officials do not pay heed to the problem. The locals allege that there were several shanties in the slum whose inhabitants collected plastic covers, plastic bags, logs of wood, fabric, nylon and other inflammable material to run their businesses. Although the exact cause and the starting place of the fire are unknown, locals and the police suspect one of these storage rooms may be the origin.
Umesh Mali, sub-inspector, Mahim police station said, “There are godowns here that store plastic bags and timber, which seem to be the reason why the fire started and spread. However, we are yet to ascertain the precise cause.” Locals said they were busy with festive preparations for Eid-ul-Milad early Friday morning, when they saw giant licks of flames. “Immediately, we called up the fire control office. But they came only after 30 minutes or so. By that time, it had already caught on to a lot of things,” said a resident.
S Patil, local corporator from the MNS, said, “The BMC took temporary measures of levying fines on these godowns but no action was taken. This fire could have been avoided if the authorities had bothered to take timely action.” Meanwhile, BMC officials said they were unaware of any such complaints made in the past. S Ugle, G-North ward officer, said, “I will check with my staff whether any such complaints have been forwarded to us, and initiate the necessary inquiry.”
Thieves make merry during blaze
They say one man’s pain is another man’s joy. And that rung true yesterday when a bunch of thieves tried to strike the hapless people who were trying to save themselves and their families from the blaze that broke out in Nayanagar slum in Mahim.
Locals claim that they were fleeing the inferno with whatever belongings they could grab, they noticed a group of thieves trying to rob the locals. One of the locals told MiD DAY that a few of them had left their doors open as they tried to run to safety and sensing an opportunity, the thieves struck. Ibrath Khan, a local said, “We caught one of thief and very soon he was given a beating and then handed over to the police.” However, police officials claim that no such complaint was filed but they were not ruling out the possibility that the incident happened.