Kamala Mills fire: Survivor says massively drunk crowd added to the chaos and confusion

Updated: Jan 01, 2018, 15:02 IST | Gaurav Sarkar

Survivor admitted at Bhatia Hospital says crowd's massive drunker stupor added to the chaos and confusion

Kedar Gantha, who was at 1 Above with his wife, is undergoing treatment at Bhatia Hospital
Kedar Gantha, who was at 1 Above with his wife, is undergoing treatment at Bhatia Hospital

Dadar businessman Prateek Thakur, 28, who was at 1 Above last night with his wife and friends, believes the hookah started the fire. Thakur and a few other injured are undergoing treatment at Bhatia Hospital.

'Out of senses'
He told mid-day, "People were very drunk... Public ko hosh hi nahi tha (they were completely out of their senses). They didn't realise that the fire would spread so quickly. I started shouting that the plastic on top would burn down the entire hotel in a matter of minutes. But when everyone tried to run in an inebriated condition, the chaos worsened. Everyone was clueless; no one had any idea where to exit from. There was a barricade-like structure in the front, and people, instead of jumping over it, were just standing and crowding against it. They were so drunk, they didn't know how to run away."

Prateek pointed out the lack of fire safety measures at the restaurant. "There was no such thing as a fire exit," said his wife Toren, 29, who also suffered burn injuries. He added: "There were 10-15 people in front of me near the barricade; I jumped over them. But then I realised that Toren wasn't behind me, so I went back inside. That's when I suffered most of my injuries, because of the plastic melting from above."

Toren's brother was in the bathroom with a bunch of other people when the fire broke out. "The security guard outside the bathroom wouldn't let people out, saying the fire would spread inside, but somehow one DJ managed to open the door and escape, and my brother-in-law Lokesh followed suit. If they would have stayed there any longer, they would've died." When Prateek couldn't find Toren inside, he came back out and saw that she and Lokesh were safe outside.

'Within minutes'
Kedar Gantha, 46, another injured, said, "The roof was made out of flammable material. It got engulfed, and, within a matter of minutes, the fire was all around us. That's when the problem started. No one could exit. It was complete chaos with the burning plastic falling on us. My wife got left behind in the crowd, and I went back to pull her out; that's when I got burned. She too has suffered injuries on her hands and legs. "There was no indication of a problem. The fire started and spread so fast, that people could only just watch. Everyone tried to exit through the long passageway they had entered and got stuck."

From the hospital
As per an official statement from Bhatia Hospital, 15 people with burn injuries were admitted at 3 am on Friday. Out of these, one person had minor injuries and was discharged within a few hours. Three NRIs (two men and one woman) have been admitted to the burns unit with 15-30 per cent burns. The remaining 11 patients are stable and expected to be discharged within two to three days. A senior doctor at the hospital said most had suffered burn injuries on their upper torso, head, shoulders and arms because the flammable material fell on them.

Eyewitness accounts

Mahesh Sable, who informed authorities
'Guests running out from the restaurant were all confused; they had no clue where to exit from. Around 200 people were running helter-skelter. People were bumping into each other and falling down. The staff was nowhere to be seen. When I entered to help, I had to tie my shirt on my nose, the smoke was that bad. It was after we managed to get some people out, they told us about those stuck in the washroom'.

Suraj Giri, who works in the adjacent building
'The restaurant had cylinders stored in a compartment on the ground floor. After the fire started spreading, the roof cover started falling right next to the cabinet in which the cylinders were stored. A few others and me immediately started moving them from the spot. Had any object ablaze fallen on the cabinet, the destruction would have been much worse'.

As told to Pallavi Smart

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