When it comes to fatalities in fire accidents, Mumbai tops the list of cities in the country, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. Between 2006 and 2015, 3,781 people lost their lives in fire accidents in Mumbai, the highest among all urban centres in the country. Only in 2009, Bengaluru, with 449 deaths, had a higher fatality count than Mumbai, which reported 426 deaths that year.
India reported 2.16 lakh deaths in fire accidents between 2006 and 2015, with nearly 64 per cent of the victims being women. In Mumbai, 2,598 of those who died were women, or nearly 69 per cent of the total victims. In Friday’s fire too, the majority of those who died were women.
While Mumbai has a substantially higher population than most urban centres in the city, urban planners claim the unplanned and densely packed outlay of the city makes it vulnerable to fire accidents. The lax implementation of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Rules 2009, which is aimed at improving fire safety measures, has also been blamed for the high death rate.
“All the norms to ensure places are fire-proof are in place in the city. The missing link is the meticulous inspection that needs to be in place to ensure whether establishments or buildings are still compliant and whether fire-fighting equipment is in working order. That does not seem to be taking place in Mumbai, which leads to such accidents,” said Pankaj Joshi, Executive Director, Urban Design Research Institute.
In the last seven years, the Mumbai Fire Brigade issued notices for non-compliance to only close to 5,000 buildings and launched prosecution against only a dozen-odd buildings. Fire officials claim they are stretched and do not have adequate manpower to examine every violation. The agency had also planned to hire a consultant to create an online platform to check when licences were expiring and inspections were needed.