Four firemen and a deputy fire officer were injured in one of the worst fires seen in the city which led to the deployment of 88 fire engines and water tankers. The blaze broke out at the four-storey City Centre Mall in central Mumbai at 8.53 pm on Thursday and had not been contained till the time of this report going to the press.
All those present inside the mall were safely evacuated within minutes after the fire broke at an electronic/mobile shop on the second floor. As the flames spread to the third floor, thick smoke billowed from the structure. Around 3,500 residents of the neighbouring 55-storey Orchid Enclave were shifted as a precautionary measure, early on Friday morning.
The fire was initially categorized as level 1 (minor) but was upgraded to level-3 at 10.44 pm and an hour later to level-4, which is a serious emergency call and by 2.41 pm the fire which spread to the entire four-storey structure was declared a Level 5 or a brigade call. In the “brigade call” all the fire engines from across the city and other agencies including water tankers from BPCL, HPCL are pressed into service.
At 3.37 pm on Friday, after over 18 hours of fire-fighting, the Mumbai Fire brigade declared fire to be covered from all sides but not extinguished. At least 10 lakh litres of water were used by 88 fire engines till 2.30 pm on Friday to control the blaze. Over 250 officers, including chief fire officer, and firemen are engaged in fire-fighting operations at the site.
Due to the thick smoke, the firemen had to open the windows of the mall to gain access to the second-floor shop. However, firemen could not access the shop where the fire erupted. The Mumbai Fire brigade also deployed remote-operated fire-fighting robot.
A disaster management official said, “There are many mobile accessories shops in the mall. It houses highly inflammable materials including lithium batteries, plastic, printers, AC ducts, that is further fuelling the fire,”
Local BMC ward officials stated that the fire audit of the mall was completed six months back. However, officials were unable to share the audit result with The Indian Express. “Fire-audit was done 5-6 months back. I will have to check the result of the audit,” said a civic official.
Under Section 3 of Maharashtra Fire Prevention & Life Safety Measures Act 2006, the building owner shall carry out fire audit and submit a report certifying maintenance of fire prevention and life safety measures in good, repaired and efficient condition, twice in a year.
Eye-witness and mobile accessories shop-owner from the mall said, “Loss of property will be huge as most of the shops had recently stocked new materials keeping the upcoming festival in the mind. As it was closing time, there were few customers and everyone walked out after noticing the fire.”
The incident also resulted in traffic disruptions as both sides of Belasis road were shut for vehicular movement. Congress MLA, Ameen Patel, who visited the site on Thursday night said, “At the time the fire broke out, it was a minor fire. However, it spread rapidly. It is unclear if the fire fighting system of the mall was adequate and working efficiently.”
Among the injured fire personnel, Shamrao Jalan Banjara was admitted to the hospital due to suffocation. Another fireman 53-year-old, Ramesh Prabhakar Chaugule sustained injuries on his right hand. Two other firemen, 26-year-old Bhusaheb Badane and Sandeep Shirke sustained minor injuries and were discharged from the hospital on Friday evening. 50-year-old Deputy fire officer, Girkar was also treated for minor injuries and discharged from the hospital.
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