An LPG cylinder blast and subsequent fire at Lalbaug chawl killed one woman and injured 15 residents on Sunday morning. At least nine remain critically injured at hospitals with over 70 per cent burn injuries.
While the blaze was brought under control within an hour by the Mumbai Fire brigade, the incident has left all injured with over 35 per cent burns. Twelve injured were rushed to KEM hospital and four others to Masina hospital. Of them, five are senior citizens and one a 13-year-old girl.
The fire, which started around 7.30 am, gutted four rooms on the second floor of the four-storey Sarabhai building at the chawl.
Sushila Bangera (62) lived alone on the second floor. Neighbours said her two brothers had died a few years ago and she was living off savings from tailoring work she had done earlier.
She suffered 80 per cent third degree burns in the fire. Doctors said she was intubated in the morning and admitted at KEM hospital’s plastic surgery department’s intensive care unit (ICU). “Her condition was very critical and she had also inhaled a lot of smoke. She succumbed at 7.45 pm,” said a doctor.
The blast occurred at a room occupied by Rane Caterers, where its owner Mangesh Rane was staying. Residents said wedding preparations were underway at the Rane household in an adjacent building, and several cooking gas cylinders were kept in the room to prepare food for the guests. A compliance team from F South ward office’s visited the spot to assess whether the caterer had violated norms.
Two in the Rane family, Mangesh Rane (61) and Yash Rane (19), are admitted at KEM hospital. Mangesh, hospital officials said, suffered 70 per cent to 80 per cent burns and remained critical. His statement is yet to be recorded by the police.
Ten families lived on the second floor where the fire began. Among those injured are five families whose rooms were closest to the blast site.
All four members in the family of Suryakant Ambike are critical with third degree burns. Suryakant’s daughter Vaishali and his 13-year-old granddaughter Trisha were visiting the family for a few days. The fourth person to be injured in the family was Bipin, Suryakant’s son. All are admitted at Masina hospital.
Adjacent to Suryakant’s flat is Mahesh Munge’s room. Mahesh (56), his wife Mamta (48) and their son Prathmesh (27) all sustained burns and inhalation injuries. Mahesh and Prathmesh are critical while Mamta is stable.
Roshan Andhari (40), a first floor resident, slept in a relative’s room on the second floor every night. On Sunday morning, he was asleep alone when the fire started. He suffered 70 per cent to 80 per cent burns on hands, back, legs and face and is admitted at KEM hospital’s ICU. His entire family managed to rush outside when the blast shook the building.
Chief Fire Officer Kailash Hivrale said: “Gas had started leaking from the room. It must have first accumulated in the room and then spread to the common passage. Residents said that when they smelled the gas, they informed the caterer owner. One of his workers opened the door and a spark led to the cylinder blast.”
Kiran Khatu, a third floor resident, said that Mangesh’s daughter is scheduled to be married and he had shifted cylinders and raw material for cooking in the room. “Initially, when a neighbour informed him about the smell, Mangesh ignored it. When the first cylinder burst, fire spread across the common passage. We then heard a huge explosion and rushed out,” he added.
Shiv Sena corporator Anil Kokil rushed to the spot and helped firemen to evacuate people. Later, he arranged the remaining residents to stay in a nearby hotel.
KEM Dean Dr Hemant Deshmukh said: “All those admitted here have sustained serious injuries except two. We will have to monitor them for infection for a few days.” He added that one of the injured has also suffered a chest injury. “They all have inhaled smoke. We have kept ventilators on standby. A team of doctors from general surgery, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, chest medicine and ENT are monitoring the patients,” Deshmukh said.
An official from Masina hospital said the four injured persons, the Ambike family, under their care are admitted in the ICU. “A family of four, including parents, son and daughter, have been admitted to the specialised burns unit. While the father has suffered 94.5 per cent burns, the son has suffered 92 per cents burns, The mother and daughter have got 60 per cent burns each. All four are critical but hemodynamically stable,” the hospital spokesperson said
Later in the day, Mayor Kishori Pednekar visited the building and KEM hospital. Civic officials said the fire spread to the second floor common passage and destroyed the wall between rooms 16 and 17. In one of the rooms, the entire window section was destroyed. The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority has been directed to begin repair works, said officials.