Civic and fire brigade officials suspect that Wednesday’s fire that gutted Bombay House, the headquarters of the Tata Group, broke out following a short-circuit in the split air-conditioner in the basement.
The fire broke out at 9.15 am. As smoke filled the basement, employees started panicking.
“Three employees working in the canteen, Farad Wadia, the cashier, and two others, Eashwar Patel and Shashank Pawar, tried to get some fresh air but all the windows were sealed. They couldn’t breathe,” a fire officer said requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media. “By the time they were brought out of the building, it was too late. They were rushed to St George Hospital, where they were declared brought dead.”
Fire brigade personnel battled the fire with nine fire engines, five water tankers. It took them two hours to bring the fire under control.
Police and fire brigade officials at the spot said some fire safety norms for the building had been overlooked. Chief fire officer Uday Tatkare said although fire-fighting equipment was in place it was not in the automatic mode. “We found that the system was in the manual mode. If it had been in automatic mode the sprinklers would have started,” he said.
“If it had been on automatic, the flooding system could have had helped control the fire. Some one had to turn it on,” Tatkare added.
Additional municipal commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar said the entry and exit point to and from the basement were blocked due to unauthorised constructions. “As a result the fire kept simmering inside the basement,” Mhaiskar said.
The Azad Maidan police have filed an accidental death report. No first information report had been lodged until Wednesday night, they said.