When firefighters began operations at Manish market on Mohammed Ali road, one among the four which caught fire on Saturday morning, they were provided an internal map of the plaza by the civic body, but encroachments and tardy enforcement of safety norms rendered it useless.
Fire officials said that both Manish market and Sara Sahara complex had no fire safety equipment and the mandatory building rules pertaining to fire safety had been compromised. Moreover, rampant encroachments and haphazard wooden alterations made venturing inside a risky task.
“It is mandatory to keep a .75 metre ventilation space between shops which was used up to accommodate small shops or internal staircases. The common passage was also narrower than the prescribed limit. It was complete chaos,” said a senior fire official.
Firefighters added that the outer facade of the Manish market was covered with glass panels, which made it difficult for the smoke to escape.
The civic body’s ward office officials said that fire safety norms didn’t exist when the markets were constructed, before 2000. They added that had fire brigade officials inspected the markets for violations under the recently enacted Maharashtra Fire Safety Act, the problem could have been avoided.
According to the law, essential firefighting equipment like fire extinguisher, a hose reel, an automatic sprinkler, and a tank storing adequate water to douse a fire are mandatory.
Meanwhile, an inquiry has been ordered by the civic body to check illegal extensions in the markets. Additional municipal commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar said, “The local ward office and the building proposal department will investigate the matter.”