4 killed, 16 injured in fire at residential building in Mumbai’s Parel; blaze started from electrical wiring
Four people died and 27 others were injured in a major fire that gutted the 12th floor of a residential building in central Mumbai’s Parel on Wednesday, exposing flagrant violations of safety codes and bringing back memories of a blaze that killed 14 people in the area last December.
Fire brigade officials said the fire started in the electric duct on the 12th floor of Crystal Tower, and the area around the lift was the worst affected. Two people were found charred inside the elevator. The two other bodies were found in the corridors.
The 16-storey building neither had an occupation certificate, nor were mandatory fire safety regulations followed, officials added. Several illegal alterations were made to the structure, and the builder used the refuge area, meant to save residents in the event of a fire, to build more flats.
The fire brigade rescued at least 35 people. The four who died were identified as Shubhada Shirke, Hasan Shaikh, Sanjeev Nair, and Ashok Sampat.
“Crystal Tower’s firefighting system was not operational,” said P Rahangdale, the chief fire officer. “Despite being a high-rise, it did not have a refuge area, fire alarms or a riser system. There was an open electric duct in the centre of the building, which should have been sealed. This acted as a literal chimney and carried the dense smoke to the upper floors. All corridors were smoke logged,” Rahangdale said.
The Mumbai civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), disconnected electricity and water to the building until it complied with fire safety rules. The fire brigade declared the building unsafe and sealed it.
This is the fourth blaze in Mumbai since June. On June 1, a fire broke out at Scindia House in south Mumbai. On June 9, a part of Patel Chambers in south Mumbai’s Fort Area collapsed after a fire. And on June 13, a fire engulfed the top three floors of the 32-storey Beaumonde Towers in Prabhadevi in Dadar, a short distance away from Crystal Tower. No casualties were reported from any of these incidents.
But the worst fire in recent times broke out in a restaurant in the Kamala Mills area of Lower Parel shortly after midnight on December 29 last year. The fire swiftly spread to other buildings, killing 14 people. Probes later found a lack of firefighting equipment and several violations of the building code.
In Crystal Tower, the fire brigade found the electric duct that carries cables from the metre room (normally on the ground floor) was sealed by residents with combustible material instead of cement.
“Electric ducts are not to be tampered with by residents. They are extremely important from the fire safety point of view,” said R Chaudhari, the deputy chief fire officer.
Kishor Desai, the assistant commissioner of the F South ward, under whose jurisdiction the area falls, said the building did not have an occupation certificate. “The BMC had served it a notice for unauthorised occupation in 2016.”
The BMC said it will register a case against the building and file a complaint of negligence with the police against those responsible for maintaining the building.
The builder, Razak Ismail Haji Issa of Sapna Developers, however said the building was in the “process of applying” for an occupation certificate. “We planned to remove the violation (the flats built on refuge areas). Of the four flats constructed in the refuge area, three have already been demolished, while one was to be removed soon. The flats constructed on the 16th floor, in place of the gymnasium shown in the building plan, also had to be regularised with the remaining Floor Space Index,” Issa said.
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