Fire breaks out at Heera Panna mall, 20 rescued
A major fire broke out in a mall in Mumbai, resulting in the evacuation of 20 people and the hospitalization of four. The fire was caused by an electrical short circuit or a cigarette stub and the non-functioning fire-fighting system in the building posed a challenge to firefighters. The fire was contained to the second and third floors of the mall and did not spread to other areas.
Mumbai: A regular day for office-goers, shopkeepers, shoppers and health enthusiasts was interrupted when a major fire broke out on the second and third floors of Heera Panna mall at 3:10pm on Friday. It was graded as level-3 fire. The basement and ground plus three storeyed mall is located near the Oshiwara police station, in Jogeshwari West.
12 fire engines and 80 firemen of Mumbai fire brigade were brought into service for the four-and-a-half-hour operation.
Twenty people were rescued, one of them a senior citizen who was found in an unconscious state. He and three others were subsequently admitted to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital (KDAH). Two of them – Raj Prabhas Israni, 69, and Amruta Mukesh Sagar, 39 -- were admitted to the ICU as they had suffered smoke inhalation, while two others – Mitesh Seth, 39, and Sachin More, 41 -- were released after treatment. Later in the day, in a press statement, Dr Santosh Shetty, CEO and executive director of the hospital, confirmed this and added: “Two of them are under medical supervision; the doctors are assessing and addressing their healthcare needs.”
Through the rescue operation, three firefighters who complained of suffocation, also had to be rushed to hospital. While firemen Sandip Patil and Raju Shingankar were sent to RN Cooper Hospital in Juhu, Yogesh Kondawar was sent to Trauma Care Centre, in Jogeshwari. They were declared stable after treatment.
The non-functioning fire-fighting system in the building posed a challenge to fire brigade officials.
The fire started at the electric wiring installation system in 10 to 12 shops on the second and third floors of the mall, and remained confined in this space. Chief fire officer, Ravindra Ambulgekar, said, “The two floors were soon filled with smoke. While prima facie short circuit seems to have caused the fire, investigations are on to ascertain if it could have been caused by a casually disposed cigarette stub in the electric duct. The investigating officer is questioning witnesses to verify this.”
Nine people were rescued using a turntable ladder (TTL) – an elevated device used in such situations – while others were physically rescued by firemen. “In the process three firemen suffered suffocation and were rushed to two hospitals,” said Ambulgekar.
The rescue operation was challenging, given the thick smoke and lack of ventilation inside, and the traffic outside on the busy street. Five small hose lines and one high pressure first aid line of motor pumps were put in operation to douse the fire.
After he was rescued, Ranvijay Prabhakar, who was working out at the Oneabove Fitness gym on the third floor earlier, said, “We were alerted when the fire alarm went off, leading to much hue and cry inside. Very soon, the space became enveloped in smoke. Accompanied by a few others we rushed to the staircase but could not make our way out.” They were among the nine who were airlifted by the fire brigade’s TTL.
On the other hand, as the smoke was contained to a specified space, people managed to keep their calm and were able to collect their belongings from the respective offices which were unharmed. All of them congregated into the gym’s cafeteria on the terrace, from where they were evacuated.
Another fitness enthusiast Mandeep Kapoor, who was training at the same time, exited the building using the smoke-filled stairs along with the housekeeping staff and a gym trainer. “We could barely see beyond a few feet. All of us switched on our flashlights and braved the odds. There were people fainting on the stairs,” said Kapoor, who had left her essentials such as house keys and wallet behind. “I am glad I was not stuck up there,” she said.
Meanwhile, fire brigade officials were aided by members of Police Mitr, a citizens’ body that assists police in times of crisis. Devendra Rathod, a member of the body, was in the vicinity at the time. He helped bring five people to safety. Rathod and an office-goer Mulchand Gupta helped the 69-year-old Asrani, who was found slumped in his office on the first floor. They took him to KDAH in a police van, as an ambulance had not arrived yet. “The smoke had affected me too, and I ended up vomiting after getting out of the building,” said Gupta.
Another executive Sushant Chand, was on the ground floor working on some prints when he learnt about the fire. He rushed to help his father who was working on his first-floor office. “I was trying to help douse the fire. We used the fire extinguishers – one water hose worked while the other was defunct. It’s clear that no attention was paid to keep the fire safety equipment upgraded,” said Chand.
(Inputs by Somita Pal)