Two persons died while 14 more were rescued, including a year-old baby, after a major fire broke out in a duplex residential flat on the 20th and 21st floors of Maker Tower in Cuffe Parade on Tuesday. Eight fire engines and six water tankers rushed to the spot and the fire, which broke out at 6.45 am in the house of Shekhar Bajaj, the managing director of Bajaj Electricals, was extinguished by around 9.50 am.
Fire officials said the fire originated in the domestic helps’ quarters on the 20th floor which then spread upwards. “There were servants’ quarters on both the floors but the helps were asleep in the quarters on the 21st floor. The likely cause of the fire was a short-circuit which started in the main switchboard in the servants’ quarters on the 20th floor and spread upwards,” said a fireman at the site.
The official added that the firemen found the two victims, 22-year-old Pradeep Vir Kundan and 24-year-old Ajay Ram Saroj, in the servants’ quarters. “When we found them they were already dead. They possibly died in their sleep,” said the fire official, adding that the rest of the house was not damaged.
The duplex combined a three-bedroom and a four-bedroom flat, each spread over 3,000 sqft. “The walls were blackened by the smoke but there was no other damage to the structure,” he said.
Chief Fire Officer P Rahangdale said the building’s fire-fighting system was in working condition that helped prevent the fire from spreading. “We used the building’s fire hose and were able to deploy resources quickly. Apart from seven family members of the Bajaj’s, we also evacuated seven other residents from other flats on the same floor,” he said. The building, however, has not been up to date with the bi-annual fire audit which has been made mandatory by the civic body.
Ajay Jain, the secretary of Maker Tower, said, “Our fire-fighting equipment is in place and in working condition. We had conducted a fire audit about two years ago and no problem was found. We also have fire doors to ensure that smoke doesn’t enter the stairwell.”
Incidentally, the building had experienced a similar situation about five years ago when a fire had broken out in the gymnasium. Residents of the building said that the cause of that fire could not be determined. Rahangdale said that Kundan and Saroj were rushed to St George Hospital where they were pronounced dead. He added that a one-year-old baby, Bajaj’s grandson, was also rescued and taken to the same hospital before being taken to a private hospital. Residents living on the other floors of the building also vacated the building at the time of the incident.
Officials from the A ward office stated that the building comes under the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA)’s jurisdiction. MMRDA officials were not available for comments.
Doctors at St George Hospital said even though Kundan and Saroj had sustained burn injuries, they had died primarily due to suffocation. “The preliminary examination indicates that they died due to excessive inhalation of carbon monoxide,” said Dr J B Bhavani, the medical superintendent of the hospital.
When contacted, Bajaj was unwilling to talk and merely stated that he was glad that his family was well and safe.