Malabar Hill High-rise fire: 'Firefighting system didn't have alternative power supply'

Updated: Feb 07, 2020, 07:56 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

Says Mumbai Fire Brigade chief, adds that the staircase turned into a death trap in the absence of a barrier to prevent smoke from spreading

Seventeen people were rescued after a fire broke out on the fifth floor of Las Palmas building at Malabar Hill. Pic/Ashish Raje
Seventeen people were rescued after a fire broke out on the fifth floor of Las Palmas building at Malabar Hill. Pic/Ashish Raje

A day after the Mumbai Fire Brigade rescued 17 residents of the Las Palmas society following a fire on the fifth floor on Wednesday, its chief has said the firefighting system of the building was not connected to an alternate electricity source.

He also attributed poor design of the building for the struggle his teams had to face while rescuing the people. The staircase passage turned into a death trap and residents could now leave the building as the absence of a barrier to prevent the smoke from spreading to other floors was missing.

"This is the situation with old buildings. There isn't any barrier that stops smoke from spreading to the upper floors. In such cases, the staircase passage, meant to be an escape route, converts into death traps instead," Mumbai Fire Brigade chief Prabhat Rahangdale said. He added that there was a fire fighting system, but it was useless without an alternate power supply as the main electricity connection to the building was cut off following the fire. Rahangdale said a detailed investigation has been initiated and the fire brigade will send a notice to the society office about the non-working condition of the firefighting system.

Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said the old buildings and narrow roads in the city, especially in south Mumbai, are vulnerable to such disasters. We are looking at solutions like small fire vehicles and other machinery, but we also need the help of the citizens to tackle such accidents. Fire safety awareness is also important, he added.

Recounting the incident, Surendra Jadhav, a house help who works at a seventh-floor flat, said, "When we opened the main door of the flat to get out of the building, we felt a hot blow of air and everything was covered in thick smoke. There was no electricity too." He used a pipeline to climb down to save his life.

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