A day after a fire gutted part of Metro House building at Colaba, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) has decided to direct the owner of the building to conduct a structural audit, while the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has sealed the premises and barred entry until the audit is conducted. Entry will be allowed if the structural audit report says the building or parts of it are safe to be occupied.
The fire that broke out on Thursday damaged the second and third floors completely and weakened the building’s B wing. It took more than six hours to douse the fire completely.
Civic officials said because it is a cessed building (the buildings built before 1969 and maintained by Mhada’s Repair and Reconstruction Board), the housing authority is to take further action on its repair and audit. A notice will be issued to the owner or the landlord of the building (Metro Shoes) to conduct an audit and submit its report within a week.
Speaking to HT, executive engineer of Mhada, Dilip Garje said, “We will issue a notice to owner on Saturday under MMC Act 353A to conduct a structural audit of the building. We will give a week’s time to submit a report and after that, a decision will be taken on allowing residents and shopkeepers to occupy the building again.”
Assistant municipal commissioner Kiran Dighavkar said, “Until the report comes out, the civic body has sealed the area and barred entry into the building for safety.”
A wooden staircase inside the building collapsed in the fire and the structure has also developed some cracks. Traffic going towards Colaba was restricted because cooling operations were on until Friday evening.
Fire brigade officers said, “The cause of fire is yet to be ascertained, but prima facie it is said to be because of a short circuit. According to some eyewitnesses, the fire began from a meter cabin located below the stairs on the first floor.”
Chief fire officer PS Rahangdale said, “A fire investigation report will be submitted in a week’s time.”
Civic officials said they found many alterations in the building that could be illegal. A senior civic official said, “There are alterations and additions to the building, including mezzanine floors and staircases. Also, at some places the owners have divided the rooms into two by building partitions to occupy more people.”
The second and third floors were occupied by a Metro Shoes showroom. The manager of the Metro showroom Rahim said, “The fire brigade arrived late to the spot, which led to the fire spreading on other floors. Now, the first and ground floors are completely filled with water and damaged. The extent of damage to property can’t be accessed now because no one is allowed inside.”
The fire began on the first floor of the B wing (which houses Venus Residency Guest House) and spread to the C wing, which houses the Metro Shoes showroom.
Rahim said, “The offices of Metro Shoes were also on the second and third floor. However, three months ago, they were shifted to Kurla otherwise it could have been a bigger disaster.”