A major fire broke out on Friday in a 25-storey commercial building in a western suburb of Mumbai, officials said. One firefighter died during the rescue operation.
The incident, which started off as a routine rescue operation, soon took a dramatic turn when 33 firefighters got trapped in Lotus Business Park which houses the office of Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan, necessitating a rescue operation by the coast guard.
The building’s non-existent fire fighting system, poorly-equipped staff and an ill-planned operation resulted in the building catching fire thrice within seven hours.
The building’s glass façade meant the fire kept gathering intensity resulting in a tough task for the firefighters.
Choppers belonging to the coast guard had to be flown in to rescue the trapped firefighters. However, a delay in bringing in the choppers resulted in the death of 35-year-old firefighter, Nitin Yevleker.
The rescue operation was a disaster from the start.
“The water pipe being used to douse the fire developed some fault as the operation was in progress, making it worse for the firemen,” said a fireman.
The building boasted of very few facilities that could curtail the fire.
“Since there was no water in the tank, our firemen had to climb 22 floors with the water pipe to extinguish the blaze,” said Sanjay Deshmukh, additional municipal commissioner, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
With the situation spiralling out of control, the firemen informed the officials on the spot and the control room.
“There was no response from anyone. Many from the team were already suffering as the heat and smoke were unbearable. Our gumboots had melted in the heat,” said another fireman.
By the time the choppers finally arrived, Yevleker had passed away and most other escaped through the stairs while fighting the fire.
The BMC has blamed the building for the disaster and has threatened legal action against it for not having a proper firefighting system in place.
“We will be initiating action against the owner of the building under Maharashtra Fire Prevention Act, Disaster Management Act and Criminal Law for negligence,” said BMC commissioner Sitaram Kunte.