As many as 84 people were rescued from the terrace of the nine-storey Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) office building in Bandra (West) after a major fire broke out on Monday afternoon.
It took Mumbai Fire Brigade officials three hours to rescue 84 people, mostly employees of the government-run telecom service, after the fire broke out on the second floor of the building. While the fire department is yet to ascertain the cause of blaze, it confirmed that 25-year-old fireman Sagar Datta Salve was injured in the rescue operation.
The incident was reported around 3.10 pm at MTNL building on S V Road. The fire was confined to the third and fourth floor of the nine-storey building. Some office employees informed that the fire broke out on the mezzanine floor on the second floor. The fire was categorised as Level-4, which means all fire stations, chief fire officers and deputy officers were on the spot.
Laxmi Chauble, an employee of the administrative department on the sixth floor of the building, had a narrow escape. “I was waiting for the lift on the sixth floor to go to the ground floor, but it seemed the lift was malfunctioning and so I took the stairs. Soon, the power to the lift was shut and there was heavy smoke billowing from the lower floors. I, along with my co-workers, ran to the terrace. It was suffocating and the smoke was intense,” said Chauble.
Many who were inside the building when the fire broke out said that a thick blanket of smoke had engulfed the building as there were not many windows. Amruta Kaluste, a Vasai resident who has been working with MTNL for the last nine years, said: “We broke open the window panes on the ninth floor as the smoke had engulfed the entire area. I waited for half an hour in the room and was later rescued by the fire brigade.”
As the fire in the building intensified, even the Bandra railway station, which is around 600 metres from the MTNL office, was covered in smoke.
A BMC official present at the site said that construction and repair work was underway in the building. A fireman, who did not wish to be named, said, “There was no fire fighting equipment inside the building. As the construction work was underway, there were huge cables lying around, which is why there was more smoke.”
The Fire Brigade also deployed a newly procured robot van for the first time during the firefighting operations. “The robot climbed till the first floor of the structure and inspected areas covered under heavy smoke, which was out of our reach. It was retracted after it couldn’t turn on the first floor,” said P S Rahangdale, chief fire officer.
Along with the robot van, 16 fire engines, seven water tankers, two jumbo tankers, three aerial platform ladders (APL), turn table ladders and breathing apparatus, and 14 ambulances were pressed into services. The APLs carried four persons along with a fire officers in each trip. Pankaj Mishra, 27, who was working on the eighth floor when the fire broke out, was among the last batch of people to be rescued from the terrace, at 6 pm. “We were around 70 people on the terrace and since it was open, the effect of smoke was less. We first assisted fire brigade in rescuing all the women employees.”
Mumbai Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar, Additional Municipal Commissioner Ashwini Joshi, Bandra MLA and School Education Minister Ashish Shelar visited the spot. “As per the information received from officials, it looks like there was no firefighting equipment or alarm system in place. The priority was to rescue people. I will ask the chief minister to set up an inquiry.”
At the time of going to the press, the Mumbai fire brigade was scanning through each floor as the cooling operation was underway.