The cause of the major fire in the 21-storey Chandivali building on Saturday was a short circuit in the air-conditioning unit of a flat on the 14th floor, fire officials said.
Four of the seven dead were found trapped in lifts.
The fire brigade is looking into what made the lift shaft stop abruptly, said KV Hiwrale, deputy chief fire officer.
Mazhar Thakur, chairman of the housing society said, “The fire quickly spread from the AC and engulfed the 14th floor. Neighbours alerted us.”
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The housing society has 260 buildings in its four wings.
Thakur said the elevator cable melted due to the heat, disconnecting power supply to the lift.
Acting chief fire officer PS Ranhangdale, who was at the site said, “The power to the elevators was eventually disconnected by the fire brigade for rescue work.”
Four of the seven dead in the fire were trapped in lifts, three of them were stuck in a lift in the 21st floor and one was stuck in another lift on the 14th floor, fire officials said.
They added that they could not be rescued in time and had suffocated to death .
Residents alleged that Mumbai Fire Brigade took over 45 minutes to respond to the fire call. “The fire brigade was ill-equipped to fight the fire. It took them over one-and-half hours to initiate rescue operations. Residents trapped in the fire had to wait long in refuge areas to be evacuated,” an office bearer of the housing society said.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh, however, said, “The fire-fighting operations went on smoothly. Fire officials were well equipped.”
Fire officials said that some new equipment was also used to douse the fire.
Nayantara Raj, whose flat caught fire, said, “My brother was in the house. He said it happened because of the AC.” She said her brother was rescued close to 8.10 pm.
Incidentally, at least three of the dead were not residents of the building, Thakur said. According to him, at least one was an electrician working on contract.
Local corporator Ishwar Tayade and former Maharashtra minister Naseem Khan claimed that one of the seven dead was a non-resident who had come to help with the rescue work.
DURING A FIRE…
* Never try to escape using a lift. Electric circuits are often the first to blow. Getting trapped in a lift during a fire can be fatal. It’s always safer to use stairwells.
* Never jump from an upstairs window. The fall could be fatal. Use blankets as a rope and throw mattresses out to cushion the landing or better still use a purpose-made escape ladder.
* Never hide in a cupboard or under the bed. Fire brigade personnel will find it tough to locate a person inside a cupboard. Also, hiding below the bed or inside a cupboard cannot protect you from the heat and smoke.
* Do not open doors that have smoke billowing from the joints. Opening the door will add oxygen and fuel the fire and may cause a sudden fireball. A contained fire may burn out for lack of oxygen.
WHAT TO DO
* If closed doors or handles are warm, use another way out. Never open doors that are warm to touch.
* Crawl low under smoke.
* Go outside and call for help.
* If smoke, heat or flames block exits, stay in the room with doors closed.
* Place wet towel under door and call fire department.
* Use a portable fire extinguisher only if you have been trained to use it.