Two people, including a child, were killed and at least 11 others injured after a massive fire broke out at the Damu Nagar slums in Kandivli (East) on Monday afternoon. The blaze, which spread across 12 acres, gutted around 2,000 shanties, leaving nearly 10,000 people homeless.
A major tragedy, however, was averted as the fire broke out in the afternoon, when a majority of the children were in school and several locals managed to get to safe locations immediately after they heard the first of a series of cylinder blasts.
While the residents claimed that nearly 10 to 15 cylinder blasts led to the blaze, fire officials said it was unlikely that cylinder blasts were the cause. “In case of a gas leak or a cylinder blast, the fire does not become so big, as the cylinders have a safety level. We are yet to ascertain if a cylinder blast caused the fire or did the fire break out and then there were cylinder blasts,” said a fire officer, requesting anonymity.
“The cause of fire is under investigation. It was very windy and that helped the fire to spread faster,” KV Hivrale, deputy chief fire officer, said.
The Samta Nagar police, under whose jurisdiction the area falls, will register an accidental death report.
The fire was brought under control around 4.30pm and susequently dampening operations were carried out throughout the evening.
While 16 fire engines, seven water tankers were immediately rushed to the area, the operations were delayed as the vehicles could not enter the locality owing to narrow lanes. Authorities finally broke down compound walls on both sides of the access road to reach the site of the blaze.
While one body was identified, civic officials said the body of the child was charred beyong recognition. They were waiting for the hospital authorities to ascertain if the child was a boy or a girl. The injured were admitted to Shatabdi Hospital.
Anil Khope, a resident of the area, who was in his house when the fire broke out, said, “There was panic as people ran to save themselves. Some of us quickly pulled out cylinders from our homes and dumped them in the nullah to prevent more blasts.”
Radha Misal, 35, who stays with her family of 20, and several other locals, alleged that the forest department had broken down their brick homes in 2000, and so they were living in shanties. “The officials came and said the area belonged to them and we would have to vacate,” said Misal, adding they even paid Rs 7,000 to the forest department for a rehabilitation scheme, under which they were supposed to get a new house in Chandivli or Kurla this month.
“Everyone was supposed to get a new house. Before we could move out, our houses have been gutted. What will we do now? We are only left with the clothes we are wearing,” said Panchsheela Sable, 50, another resident of Damu Nagar.
With inputs from agencies