Mumbai: No firefighting equipment at 150-year-old Crawford Market
Fortunately no one was hurt in the fire that broke out early on Sunday; Chief Fire Officer says BMC is in the process of putting up firefighting equipment
The BMC does not seem to have learnt a lesson from fires in Manish Market in the past. On Sunday, a fire gutted 50 shops in the neighbouring 150-year-old Crawford Market which still does not have firefighting equipment.
Although it was a major blaze, fortunately no one was seriously injured. Pics/Atul Kamble
While the Chief Fire Officer says the BMC is in the process of putting up firefighting equipment in the ongoing revamp of the market, shopkeepers claim the total losses incurred in the blaze ran into lakhs and they are uncertain about their business ahead of Diwali. Fortunately no one was seriously injured.
Firefighters douse the blaze
The Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market (aka Crawford Market) is a municipal market where fruits, dry fruits, cosmetics, plastic items and other small goods are sold. Located inside a 150-year-old heritage building, the market has been functioning while the restoration of the outer building and clock are underway.
Worried shop owners and workers look at the shops that were burnt
Traders have been doing business here for generations and locals throng to this area to buy their weekly grocery and household goods. Around 4.30 am on Sunday, workers in the market were woken up by smoke and ran out to save their lives.
The fire gutted about 50 shops in the market
Although the fire brigade was called right then, locals claim it arrived at 5.30 am. 10 fire engines and 8 tankers were sent to the spot and the fire was doused around 9 am.
“I was sleeping outside my shop when I smelt smoke. I could see flames rising behind a neighbouring shop. Then, the loft of my shop also caught fire. That’s when I tried to save my licence and other important documents kept in the shop and sustained injuries,” said Sridhar Mhoprekar, who owns a dry fruits shop inside the market.
His family has been running the shop for three generations now. Mhoprekar suffered minor injuries on his back and fingers, but managed to save his documents. He lost goods worth more than Rs 2 lakh. Another person sleeping nearby was a worker from shop no. 166, a fruit store.
“The worker, Santosh, was sleeping inside the shop when the fire broke out. He told me he alerted everyone else because the fire started right behind our shop. The entire cupboard is burnt, wooden furniture is burnt, not to mention the fruits. My losses must be more than Rs 2 lakh,” said Gulabrao Kale, the shop owner.
Kale, and all the other shopkeepers are worried about their business ahead of Diwali. “Diwali is our peak season, since demand is very high. It will take us at least four days to clear the debris. After that, we will need loans to restore our business. Dhanda vapas khada karne me time lagega,” Kale said.
Asked about firefighting equipment, all the shopkeepers said that there is none in the market. “Who would have thought such a thing will happen?” said Iqbal Batatewala, who owns a cosmetics shop in the market.
“The fire started due to these illegal workers who have set up shop behind the market. They have taken galas on rent from the original owners but have no permission from the BMC. I haven’t seen a fire in this market for 45 years,” he alleged.
Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, MLA Amin Patel and Mayor Snehal Ambekar visited the market on Sunday where these issues were put forth by the traders. When asked about the traders’ concerns, Sanjay Kurhade, assistant commissioner (markets) of the BMC said, “Right now our priority is clearing the debris and making the market functional.”
P S Rahangdale, chief fire officer, said, “This building, along with several others in the city, is a heritage structure that existed way before modern rules came into place. Even the BMC headquarters at CST did not have firefighting equipment in the past but it has now been installed. Similarly, the entire market is being revamped and the civic body is also going to put up firefighting equipment there. The work is underway.”