Injured recount memories of horror

FROM now on,Satish Lalit will celebrate two days in the year as his birthday. For he says that his escape from the Mantralaya fire on June 21 is a ‘rebirth’.

Written by Ananya Banerjee | Mumbai | Published: June 23, 2012 4:47 pm

FROM now on,Satish Lalit will celebrate two days in the year as his birthday. For he says that his escape from the Mantralaya fire on June 21 is a ‘rebirth’.

Lalit says that there were moments during the Thursday’s fire when he believed he was going to die. “At one point,when flames and a thick cloud of smoke engulfed the Deputy CM’s chamber where we were trapped,my colleague Aniruddha Ashtputre said to me,this is it. We are going to die. But that’s when we decided that we would find a way to get out,no matter what,” said Lalit,the chief PRO to the Chief Minister. Luckily for him,he escaped the fire ailed only by suffocation and was discharged from JJ Hospital on Friday. For Lalit and Ashtaputre who are PROs to the CM and Kishore Gangurde who is PRO to the Home Minister,it was a horrifying wait of more than an hour before they were rescued by the fire brigade. “We were trapped in the chamber for more than 45 minutes and the smoke was so dense that we were blinded and could only recognize each other by voice,” said Gangurde. They escaped from Deputy CM Pawar’s chamber by climbing down pipes and jumping on to the parapet on the fifth floor. “But the pipe broke when I was climbing down so I had to jump to the parapet and hurt my knee,” he said. Even the wait on the parapet for the fire brigade to arrive was horrifying,said Gangurde. “It was about 2-3 feet wide,five floors from the ground and we could feel the intense heat of the flames there,” he said. Gangurde said he was dropped 10 feet from the ground by the fire brigade,hurting his knee again. He was discharged from JJ Hospital on Friday while Ashtputre was treated on an OPD basis on Thursday. Another injured at JJ Hospital,Ashok Pisat,took a discharge against medical advice,on Thursday evening. While those on the sixth floor were planning their escape,Ali Ibrahim,82,almost jumped from the fourth floor of the Mantralaya,after fighting smoke for 20 minutes,thinking that help would not reach in time. Ibrahim,a resident of Ratnagiri,had an appointment with the education minister on Thursday to discuss expansion plans of his school “As I waited outside the minister’s office,someone called out that there was a fire in the building. Within a few seconds,there was smoke all over. The minister was ushered downstairs by his officials,” Ibrahim recalled. He said that it took about 20 minutes for the fire brigade to prop up the ladder at the window where he was standing. “The smoke cover was so dense that I could barely see beyond a few feet. I went inside the minister’s office to escape the smoke but it didn’t help much so I came out again. When a fire official saw me ready to jump from the window,he called out to me to stay put”,he said. As he was finally being towed out,a glass pane cut through his back. Ibrahim was admitted to St George Hospital and was treated for burns and bruises. “It is unfortunate that it took such a long time for help to come,especially for such an aged man. Thankfully his head was saved and only his back was injured,” said Ali Matwankar,Ibrahim’s friend. Suresh Sura,29,was on the sixth floor of the building to give a presentation on converting information to paperless form. Ironically,fire was one of the examples he had mentioned in his presentation. “I was all set to explain the advantages of paperless documentation,when we heard of the fire. Fortunately,there was no panic and everyone came down the stairs systematically,” said Sura,an IT consultant. Once down,Sura helped the fire brigade officials to move around the equipment but hurt himself when a stretcher fell on his left foot. “For around two hours,I helped officials in mobilising equipment like ladders and stretchers. While passing one of the stretchers,it fell hard on my foot. I did not realise it immediately,but after a while it started hurting a lot. I was then taken to the hospital and told that it was a hairline fracture,” he said. Sura is recuperating at St George Hospital and is likely to be discharged within the next two days. While most were concerned only about their own escape,there were some others who helped people evacuate. Shreedhar Surve,58,a police official posted on the sixth floor for ministers’ security,helped many people evacuate before he came down himself. “He came to know of the fire from the security posted on the fourth floor and immediately began rounding up staff to help them evacuate. Group by group,he insured that everyone was carried down to safety by the fire brigade. But himself suffered burns and suffocation,” said his son-in-law Sandeep Gurav. Surve is stable but is in the ICU of GT Hospital and is likely to be discharged on Saturday.

He called to say he’s fine but soon fell sick

AROUND 3.30 PM,about 45 minutes after the fire broke out at Mantralaya,Namrata Khaire,18,received a call from her father Hemant informing that he was safe. However,the relief that the family felt soon turned into horror. Khaire is under observation in the critical care unit of JJ Hospital. Khaire,assistant director with the Directorate General of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR),was in a meeting with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar along with other PROs when the disaster struck. “He called me,saying he is stuck in the fire but he’s fine. But when I called him half an hour later,a constable picked up the phone and said he’s been hospitalised,” said Namrata,a second-year BSc student. Kishore Gangurde,PRO to the Home Minister,said,“About 14 to 15 of us,including Khaire,were stuck in the Deputy CM’s chamber for over 45 minutes,which was filled with dense smoke. Since it was an AC chamber we had to break the windows so as not to suffocate. But when the smoke got even more dense,we had to climb down the pipes and jump onto the parapet on the fifth floor. However,Khaire could not even jump out of the window and was left hanging on the ledge,almost unconscious.

He was finally brought down by the fire brigade.” TP Lahane,dean,JJ Hospital said,“Khaire has suffered internal burns from inhalation of smoke.

His respiratory tract has been affected and he was on ventillator support till Thursday night. He is out of danger now but his condition needs to be closely monitored for 48 hours.” His family includes wife and a 25-year-old son in the Air force besides Namrata.

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