More than a decade ago, a report submitted by a senior fire officer to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had pointed to fire hazards in areas like Kalbadevi and Bhuleshwar, and anticipated fires similar to the one that brought Gokul Nivas building in Kalbadevi crashing to the ground on Saturday night. The civic body, however, had not paid heed.
The report, submitted 14 years ago, had pointed out that the area faced the serious risk of explosions and fires, because of illegal and hazardous activities related to jewellery-making being carried out. “Threat of explosion or fire will always exist, which may lead to many such accidents in future, causing death, injury and loss of property in the area. The illegal and hazardous activities carried out in small rooms in a residential area should be stopped,” the report had said. HT has a copy of the report.
After a cylinder blast at Fofalwadi in Bhuleshwar claimed 24 lives on May 31, 2001, the BMC had formed a committee under then additional municipal commissioner Ajit Kumar Jain, to evaluate fire risks in the area. PD Karguppikar, then an assistant divisional fire officer, had prepared a separate report about factors that led to the accident.
This report had pointed out that illegal processes were being practised by hundreds of jewellers in the area, such as gold refining, melting and polishing with acid. On Sunday, Karguppikar told HT, “Most of the buildings in Kalbadevi and Bhuleshwar area are occupied by jewellery workshop units and the workers refine, melt, gold for ornaments, using acid. They also store illegal cylinders in small 80 square-feet rooms. It’s like sitting on a bomb waiting to explode.”
Significantly, a cylinder blast during the firefighting process at Gokul Nivas on Saturday is said to have led to the collapse of the building.
Karguppikar said, “We had suggested all goldsmith units from Bhuleshwar and Kalbadevi be shifted to industrial zones like Mazgaon. Unfortunately, nothing was done. Saturday’s incident has shaken me.”
Deputy chief fire officer PS Rahangdale, who is now acting chief of the fire brigade, accused jewellery units of negligence, saying, “They store LPG cylinders, acids and inflammable materials in very small rooms. There is need for strict action against them, to prevent such incidents.”