A week after the Kamala Mills tragedy, another major fire broke out in a Mumbai building early Thursday, leaving four members of a family dead. The fire occurred at the Maimoon Manzil building in Marol. The blaze was limited to a single flat on the third floor.
After the fire in the 680-sqft flat was put out, only a few items could be identified — a pack of playing cards strewn across the children’s room, a half-burnt chair, frame of a queen-size bed, its mattress, a half-burnt shaving cream tube in a wall cabinet and a few utensils in the tiny kitchen.
“I could not save them,” Abbasi Kapasi kept saying as he lay in a neighbour’s flat on Thursday morning. His hair, half-burnt, bore the testimony to his attempts to enter his flat only to be defeated by the fire that spread rapidly. His two children, Moiz (10) and Sakina (14), wife Tasneem (43) and father Dawood Ali (80) were declared dead at Dr R N Cooper hospital. Sakina and Dawood, neighbours suspect, died in their sleep. When their bodies were pulled out, they had 100 per cent burns. Tasneem and Moiz had 25 to 40 per cent burns. “He (Kapasi) feels guilty,” a relative said.
When the fire — suspected to have started in the air conditioning system — broke out after 1.30 am on Thursday, Moiz was the first to wake his father up, saying he “could see smoke”.
Kapasi, who was not wearing spectacles and, hence, could not see properly, ran out to ask for help from the neighbours, the Chitalwala family, and then ran downstairs to alert residents of the lower floor. “Meanwhile, the door of their flat got shut. We used the spare key in our flat to open the door. But by then, the fire had reached the door frame,” said Hatim Chitalwala.
Moiz, instead of following his father out, ran back to the bedroom to his mother, away from the room where the fire started and where his elder sister Sakina continued to sleep. Grandfather Dawood was sleeping in the room connecting the bedroom and children’s room. “We kept calling out their names. But got no response. We started pouring buckets of water but when the flames leapt outside and burnt our door, we were forced to run downstairs,” neighbour Farida Chitalwala said. Kapasi tried to enter the flat but had to leave when flames touched his head. The fire spread through the wooden interiors in the flat, burning everything on its way.
After 4.15 am, the four charred bodies were pulled out. On the fourth floor, four members from Kothari family were rescued. Ibrahim Kothari (57), his wife Sakina (53) and two sons Husain (24) and Huzaifa (20) were admitted to the Holy Spirit Hospital. “The fire had reached our flat’s passage to the main door. Luckily, the fire brigade rescued my family before the flames could spread. They felt suffocated but had no physical injuries,” said Kothari’s niece, Fatema. She reached Maimoon Manzil as soon as she heard of the blaze.
The Kapasis on the third floor have been staying in the building for over 12 years. Other residents said Moiz, a Class III student, would be seen playing with the children in the society every day. “If he didn’t come to play, the kids would call out for him from the building compound,” said ground-floor resident Abdul Hussain.
For Farida, Moiz was like a son. “He used to call me mummy. It was only yesterday when he was sitting in our house eating fruits. I wish I had asked him to sleep over.”
Sakina, a Class VII student, was asleep when the fire broke out. “We all realised much later that the fire had spread so much. It spread so quickly that those trapped inside got no time to escape. They got scared of the flames and remained in the bedroom,” another resident, Hussain, who woke up at 2 am to the commotion, said.