Locals douse the fire at Nityanand Nagar Cooperative Housing Society. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

An Andheri society witnessed chaos last night after a meter box caught fire, engulfing the structure in smoke. The only occupant of the building, a 78-year-old woman, was trapped inside. It took the firefighters around 45 minutes to rescue her.

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The fire broke out in the two-storey building of Nityanand Nagar Cooperative Housing Society in Andheri East around 1 am today.

Watchman Devji Govind Nachare (58) had just finished dinner when he saw sparks coming out of the meter box. "Since flats on the first and second floors are used for commercial purposes, most houses were vacant at the time. But, Puspha Gupabchand Shah, on the first floor, was still inside," said Nachare.

Puspha Gupabchand Shah (78) was the only occupant of the building at the time

Suspecting that she was asleep, locals tried to alert her by throwing stones at her window. Meanwhile, sparks from the meter box intensified, and the entrance was engulfed in fire. The fire brigade rushed with three vans. After a 45-minute rescue operation, firefighters broke into Shah's flat and rescue her.

A short circuit in the meter box is suspected to have caused the fire.

Shah said she was asleep when the fire broke out and woke up to a "room engulfed in smoke".