Mumbai: Books and hall tickets of board exam students go up in flames

Ankita Solkar and Shweta Gupta’s families were among the 24 that saw their homes being gutted in a fire that broke out in their chawl in Mazgaon yesterday; Ankita has an HSC exam today and Shweta has an SSC paper tomorrow, but both girls lost their books and hall tickets in the fire

As if losing their homes wasn’t bad enough, Ankita Solkar and Shweta Gupta saw their books and their hall tickets for their board exams also go up in flames in a major fire that broke out in their chawl in Mazgaon last afternoon.

Four firemen were severely injured after a cylinder exploded. Their condition is said to be critical. Pic/Suresh KK
Four firemen were severely injured after a cylinder exploded. Their condition is said to be critical. Pic/Suresh KK

While Ankita has to appear for an HSC (Std XII) paper today, Shweta’s first SSC (Std X) exam is tomorrow and, with both of them hailing from poor families, buying the books again is not an option.

Ankita Solkar Shweta Gupta
Ankita Solkar (left) and Shweta Gupta

Four firemen sustained serious burn injuries in the fire, which broke out at the nearly 100-year-old Hirjee Bhojraj Chawl near Cotton Green railway station, and Ankita was among the first to realise that something was amiss. She was studying for her exams around 4.30 pm when she thought she could smell something burning in room no.

28 on the first floor, next to her house (room no 27). She rushed there only to find sparks flying out and she alerted all the residents, who immediately starting evacuating the chawl. The entire first floor of the chawl — consisting of 20 rooms and four rooms on the ground floor were enveloped in flames soon. Three cylinders also exploded, adding to the damage.

The fire brigade reached the spot around 4.45 pm and began dousing the fire, when a fourth cylinder blast took place, injuring four firemen. Mohan Dhurve, Shankar Shirsat, Nivrutti Ingavle and Assistant Station Officer PA Sarang were rushed to KEM Hospital immediately, where their condition was said to be critical.

“Everything has been burnt down in the fire and, to add to that, I am worried about my child’s exam. She has no books and, hence, isn’t able to study at all. Her hall ticket also went up in flames,” said Ankita’s mother Sujata. While Ankita’s father works in a printing press, Shweta’s father is a pani puri vendor.

The chawl, which has a total of 40 rooms, was supposed to go in for redevelopment this year and the residents were supposed to get the keys to transit accommodation in May. With the fire gutting 24 rooms, however, 24 families, including those of Shweta and Ankita, were rendered homeless and had nowhere to go.

The fire was doused by 12 fire trucks by 7.30 pm and while all the families were mourning the loss, Ankita and Shweta did not have the luxury of doing even that. Both the girls went to neighbouring buildings to study by sharing the books of their friends or relatives.

While Shweta is a student of Abhyudaya Education Society English High School in Kalachowkie, Ankita is a student of SIWS College in Wadala and has her examination centre in the NKES College in the same area. She had scored 70% in her SSC examination and will be appearing her Organisation of Commerce and Management exam today.

The students will have to get photocopies of their hall tickets from their respective institutes. Speaking to mid-day, Chief Fire Officer Sunil Nesarikar said, “The cause of the fire has not been ascertained so far. The fourth cylinder blast caused injuries to our men, and they have been rushed to the hospital.”

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