The blaze was reported from Jethabhai Building in Girgaon around 9.30 pm. Pic/Atul Kamble
On Saturday evening, the six-member Shah family on the third floor of Jethabhai Building in Girgaon invited friends and family to meet the oldest member of the house - 82-year-old Nalini Shah - who had just returned home after her treatment at Saifee Hospital. Between 9.15 pm and 9.45 pm, not long after all the guests had left, the family tragically lost Nalini and her 60-year-old son, Hiren due to the fire in the ground-plus-three-storey structure.
Hiren asked others in the house to run out and said he would escape with his bedridden mother. He passed away in an attempt to save her," said Jayendra Shah, Hiren's friend who lives an adjacent building. Their charred bodies were recovered during rescue operations and later sent to J J hospital for a post-mortem.
The under-construction building that people crossed over to
One of the Hiren's three sons escaped by climbing down from the third-floor apartment using pipes and scaffolding. The other three members of the family escaped by using wooden planks to create a link to an under-construction high-rise that is very close to the building.
Nine others were rescued by firefighters, even as the firefighting operations continued until about 4 am on Sunday. Eyewitnesses claim the fire engines arrived around 30 minutes late. However, fire officials said their team reached the spot within 15-20 minutes of the fire being reported. "It was extinguished by 3.35 am," an official said, adding that the cause of the fire is under investigation. Officials said the fire was confined to the third floor but eyewitnesses said the fire, reported at 9.32 pm, had spread across the three floors of the building.
With a wooden staircase and two apartments on each floor, this building has tenants under the old pagdi system and has existed since the 80s. Just opposite the building are some houses under the same pagdi system, where the Kiritkar family lives.
The saree used by people to escape from the first floor
"We could not wait for the fire brigade to arrive," said Reshma Kiritkar. "My brother is a mechanic and he broke the grill to the window of the house on the ground floor so the family there could escape." According to Kiritkar, her family threw her mother's saree to the first floor of the building and people used it to escape the blaze. "It saved at least four people who used it to climb down," she said. The wooden stairway of the building had also caught fire so escaping from there was out of the question.
On Sunday, residents of the building were collecting their belongings, each stepping out from the exit in the centre of the building with soot stuck onto their clothes. Some had it on their hands and feet. However, no one was in a condition to speak about the incident.
The Shah family's domestic help, who lived with them in their house, had a narrow escape. "I returned from somewhere just ten minutes after the fire erupted. If I had arrived a little earlier, I would have likely died," said Mala Swami, a native of Madurai who has been with the family for two years. He makes around Rs 40,000 a month, of which he sends Rs 30,000 back home to his family of five. "Rs 10,000 is for my expenses in Mumbai, including food, out of which I save as much as I can," he said, adding that he had saved Rs 30,000 over two years which had been burnt to ashes.
No of people rescued by firefighters