When residents of Vaity Apartments in Mulund (East) heard about the fire in the electric meter box on Wednesday night, a few of them thought it would be safer to take the stairs.
But the decision took a fatal turn. Vasant Pasad, 59, and his wife Varsha, 57, who lived on the third floor and Hema Chheda, 55, a resident of the fourth floor, were found dead on the first floor passage of the building. The three had suffocated to death because of the smoke.
Three injured, Neerav Pasad, 30, Avni Pasad, 29, and Mital Chheda, 26, are recuperating at Fortis hospital in Mulund, while Arnav Karande, 6, Heer Chheda, 5, Biraj Chheda, 35, Nisha Chheda, 30, and Jyoti Jadhav, 24, have been admitted to the National Burns Centre in Airoli.
Jadhav's condition is said to be serious.
Firemen said residents should have stayed indoors. “The fire was restricted to the electrical cabin and the passageway of the ground floor, but there was a lot of smoke and residents had started climbing down before the fire brigade reached the spot,” said a fire official.
According to the police, the three victims decided to get out of the building once the power shut down. “Those who stayed indoors, even on the ground, first and second floors, escaped unhurt. We are waiting for the reports from the fire department to ascertain the exact cause of the blaze,” said Ganesh Gaikwad, senior inspector, Navghar police station.
Residents said minor faults had been reported in the meter box in the past. “There was a lot of wood used in the box because of which the fire spread quickly,” said a resident.
“People got trapped in the smoke. There were around 20-30 explosions, and many people rushed out fearing a major disaster,” said VG Malgankar, who live on the of fourth floor.
Dhansingh Thapa, 20, the watchman of the building, was quick to react. “I opened the terrace door so residents could escape. I also broke grills of the houses on the ground floor.”