A four-storey under-repair building at Kalbadevi in South Mumbai collapsed four hours after a fire broke out on Saturday killing two firemen. Eight persons, including a Chief Fire Officer and his deputy suffered severe burn injuries. Two firemen who were rescued from the debris were declared dead at GT Hospital.
The fire brigade were cramped by narrow lanes and a National Disaster Response Team rushed to the site after the building collapsed.
The firemen who died were identified as S W Rane, station officer at the Indira Dock fire station, and M M Desai, Deputy Fire Officer, Gowalia Tank fire station. Chief Fire Officer Sunil Nesarikar who sustained 40 per cent burns and Deputy Chief Fire Officer Sudhir Amin who suffered 80 per cent burns were admitted to Airoli National Burns institute.
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Fire brigade officials said that the building, no 33, at Old Hanuman Lane caught fire at 4.20 pm and three persons were initially rescued. At 8.23 pm, the structure collapsed. The area could be flood-lit only around 8 pm and prior to that, the firemen had to use motorcycle headlamps to guide them.
Before the building came crashing down, Nesairkar was on the ground floor when some burning debris fell on his face. Amin, trapped in some rubble when the building showed signs of collapsing, was pulled out minutes before the structure collapsed.
“Rane was right behind Amin when they were stuck inside. We rescued Amin at 8.10 pm. At 8.23 pm, the building collapsed. Before he was trapped, Rane had rescued two people,” said Bharat Kumar Fange, a fireman from Bandra fire station.
Rane and Desai were later rescued and rushed to hospital.
Local resident Deepak Rao said the first two floors had garment shops, and the third and fourth was occupied by residents.
“A family of five including a five-year-old girl was on the fourth floor. Just after the fire erupted, I saw them rush out,” he said. Fire brigade cleared the building by evening, though it was unclear who lived on the third floor.
When the blaze spread to the roof of an adjoining building, a hose was raised to the roof of a third building and connected to an overhead water tank. The narrow lane leading to building 33 hampered access. Only two fire engines of the 17 that rushed to the spot could reportedly gain initial access to the building, and ran out of water snoon.
Officials said 17 fire engines, 8 jumbo tankers, 3 ambulances, 2 rescue vans, and a breathing apparatus (BA) van were sent to the site.
Late at night, Commandant NDRF 5th Battalion, Alok Avasthy, waiting for the fire to be extinguished to start rescue operations, said, “We reached within an hour of being informed of the collapse.”