Mahalaxmi fire: 'Ducts stuffed with household items caused fire to spread'

Dec 03, 2018, 08:23 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty

Chief Fire Officer says electrical duct was completely choked; a70- yrold died in the blaze; building was served notice for deviations in fire

Mahalaxmi fire: 'Ducts stuffed with household items caused fire to spread'
Fire broke out in the 18-storey Samrat Ashoka building at Keshavrao Khadye Marg in the early hours of Sunday. The Fire Brigade will file a police complaint against the society as firefighting installations were not in working condition

A 70-year-old woman lost her life after a fire broke out in a high- rise near the Mahalaxmi Racecourse in south Mumbai early on Sunday. Fire Brigade officials said the electrical duct on all floors of the 18- storey building was blocked with household articles, due to which the fire spread from the third floor to all floors above. As many as 79 residents were rushed to hospitals and four of them are in critical condition. The Fire Brigade had earlier served notices to the housing society for deviations in fire safety measures under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Act. Now, a police complaint will be initiated against society members, as the fire-fighting equipment was not in working condition.

Fire spread through wiring
The fire broke out on the third floor of the 18- storey Samrat Ashoka building located on Keshavrao Khadye Marg. As per initial investigation, it started in the electrical wiring inside a duct on the third floor, and then spread to the wiring right up to the top floor. As many as 96 residents were stranded due to the fire and smoke. A rescue operation was launched by the Fire Brigade at 3 am. At least 79 were rushed to the nearby Nair and Bhatia hospitals for treatment. Laxmi Koli, the 70- year- old, died of smoke inhalation. The majority of the residents were discharged after initial treatment.

"It was noticed during fire-fighting that the electrical duct on all floors was blocked with household articles, due to which the fire spread from the third floor to all above floors with thick smoke. All the residents were trapped on upper floors due to smoke in the lobby and staircase,” said PS Rahangdale, Chief Fire Officer. The fire was doused by 6 am.

Residents inhaled smoke
Ranjana Solanki, a 33- year- old resident, both of whose children are admitted in the ICU in Nair Hospital said, “ We were all sleeping when we heard the chaos outside. Both my children breathed too much smoke while fleeing from the fire.”

Due to the panic there were also incidents of the stampede. Devu bai, a 72- year- old resident said, “ I couldn’t walk fast and fell down. The people just ran over me in the dark. There was too much smoke and I could have died of suffocation but thankfully, Fire Brigade personnel rescued me.”

The non-sealing of electrical ducts on each floor are the cause for fires spreading to upper floors in most of the high- rises, said fire officials. None of the residents are also trained to deal with fire. “ We have been living here for years but have never been given training to tackle a fire. Also, most of the firefighting equipment in the building has expired,” said Pameela Wagh, another resident.

‘Police complaint to be filed’
“A notice has already been served to the society for various deviations of fire safety norms under Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Act. Now, we are in the process of filing a police complaint against society members, as the fire safety installations were not in working condition,” said Rahangdale. The fire broke out in the 18- storey Samrat Ashoka building at Keshavrao Khadye Marg in the early hours of Sunday. The Fire Brigade will file a police complaint against the society as firefighting installations were not in working condition 96 No. of residents rescued 4 No. of residents who are critical 79 No. of residents taken to hospitals

VOICES

PS Rahangdale, Chief Fire Officer
‘It was noticed during firefighting that the electrical duct on all floors was blocked with household articles, due to which the fire spread from the third floor to all above floors with thick smoke. All the residents were trapped on upper floors due to smoke in the lobby and staircase’.

Devu Bai, A resident
‘The people just ran over me in the dark. There was too much smoke and I could have died due to suffocation but thankfully, Fire Brigade personnel rescued me’.

Ranjana Solanki, A resident
‘We were all sleeping when we heard the chaos outside. Both my children breathed too much smoke while fleeing from the fire’.

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