In 2010-11, south Mumbai had five fire incidents daily, state the latest figures available with the Mumbai fire brigade. Nearly 40% of Mumbai's total fires for 2010-11 have occurred in south Mumbai alone, shows the data compiled from fire stations across the city.
These statistics combined with HT's exercise to gauge the fire safety of various public buildings of vital significance in the area paints an alarming picture. South Mumbai, the area that houses vital government establishments, headquarters of top corporate houses and national banks and important commercial establishments, is sitting on a tinderbox.
Dilapidated buildings with hardly any fire safety measures, lack of open spaces around buildings and congested streets making fire-fighting difficult.
A senior fire-fighter with the Mumbai fire brigade said, "In south Mumbai, even a small fire can turn into a blaze in a matter of minutes."
Architect Pankaj Joshi, member of the HT audit panel, said, "South Mumbai has the largest block of buildings which are old and dilapidated. While the power consumption in these areas has increased, structurally they haven't been upgraded. It makes the electrical systems very susceptible to fires."
Ravi Sinha, a structural engineering professor in IIT-Bombay who has specialised in Mumbai's structures and earthquake resistance and is a core member of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), said that much needs to be done to ensure fire safety in SoBo. Chief fire officer Suhas Joshi said: "The paucity of adequate open spaces makes it difficult to control fires in an area with such diverse land usage."