Mumbai miracles: How we survived burning cars

Within hours of each other, two cars went up in flames yesterday one at Peddar Road and another at Vile Parle even as the motorists drove them; both victims, who dodged the deadly flames and emerged unscathed, speak to MiD DAY of their great escapes

Case 1: Pedder Road
It began like any other day for Abdul Ghani Haji Ismail Batatawala, as he drove to office at Carnac Bunder in his 5-year-old Scorpio.

It was his first day as a chauffeur, when the Maruti Omni
Sunil Walia was driving burst into flames

Before he knew it, the 61-year-old was sweating it out, quite literally, to douse the flames that leapt out of his vehicle.

After narrowly surviving the accident, a shaken Batatawala has sworn to never venture out in his car without a fire extinguisher in tow. MiD DAY spoke to the traumatised man, hours after his close shave.

"I was driving when a bike-borne cop caught up with me, waving furiously at the hood of my car. I was shocked to see smoke coming out of it.
I got off and quickly tried to douse the flames with my bare hands. But the flames kept growing. I frantically poured water from the single bottle in my possession.

Seeing that it didn't help at all, I ran to a nearby laundry, and asked for more water. By now, flames were leaping out of my car.
I somehow managed to salvage my tiffin box, but several important documents, and even my cell phone, have been reduced to ashes.

Acting swiftly, I rang up the cops and the fire brigade for help, and they arrived within 15 minutes to douse the flames.

All the bystanders, taxi drivers and firemen were extremely helpful. It's a miracle that I survived today. My instincts saved me.

I will be extremely careful in future, and carry a fire extinguisher in my car at all times. It will take me a while to recover from the trauma, and drive without fear."

The Great Escape
Batatawala had a narrow escape when the car he was driving caught fire and burned to the ground in a matter of minutes on the busy Peddar Road last afternoon.

Batatawala was on his way to his office at D'mello Road at around 12.40 pm, when a beat marshall flagged him down and informed him about smoke bellowing from under the hood.
The cop informed the Gamdevi police immediately and a few other police personnel reached the spot within minutes.

The fire brigade was also alerted, but by the time they got there, the vehicle had been reduced to a smouldering heap of metal.

The fire brigade doused the flames in 15 minutes

"The driver of the vehicle is extremely lucky that the beat marshal spotted the car smoking and stopped the vehicle," said an official from the fire brigade.

The official added that the vehicle was burnt to ashes, though they reached the spot a few minutes after the fire began.

Meanwhile, Sunil Shah, who witnessed the drama, said, "We tried to douse the fire, but in vain.

Three taxi drivers also attempted to put out the flames by throwing water on the vehicle, but that did not help. Finally, the fire brigade doused what was left of the smouldering heap."

A fire official from the Gamdevi Fire Station said, "A short circuit is suspected to have started the fire and the heat from the sun could have added to the problem."

Case 2: Vile Parle (E)
It was his first day as a chauffeur for the owner of a Maruti Omni, and Sunil Walia was suitably enthusiastic.

As soon as he tried to drive the vehicle, however, his seat caught fire, and the 29-year-old Thane resident struggled to wrest himself free and jump out.

Grateful that he escaped miraculously, Walia is now resigned to returning to the job that almost cost him his life.

"It was my first day at work with a new employer. But it will be etched in my memory forever, for a completely different reason.
This was the first time in my 10-year long driving career that I became the victim of such a freak accident, which could have claimed my life.

I had been asked by the car owner to take the vehicle to a petrol pump, as it had had lain unused for a month.
It was parked along a lane at Vile Parle, and I tried to manoeuver my steering wheel to get the wheels moving.

Immediately I realised that something was terribly wrong, as I felt a burning sensation. I saw sparks emanating
from underneath my seat, and before I knew it, it was engulfed in flames.
I frantically tried to open the door to let myself out, but realised, much to my alarm, that it was stuck fast. I pushed hard, and finally managed to let myself out.

Within moments, the car was burning furiously. Bystanders ran towards it and even tried to get help, but it was too late.

I was paralysed with fear, and some of the locals sent word to the police and the fire brigade, who came and doused the flames.

The cops who reached the spot took me to the police station to record my statement. I have been trying get in touch with my employer, haven't managed to establish contact with him.

Even though I was traumatised by the incident, I have no option but to return tomorrow and buckle up my seat belt, as it is my only source of income.
Bystanders told me that I could have died, if I had not managed to run out of the car in time."

Another escape
Credit analyst Akhil D'souza (32) narrowly dodged death on Wednesday.

He was driving his Maruti Swift  at Andheri (East), when an auto driver alerted him about the flames coming out of it. He managed to jump out of the car, minutes before it burst into flames. 

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