By Dhruv Johri
A major fire broke out at an upscale residential complex at the Appasaheb Marathe Marg at Prabhadevi, Mumbai on Wednesday afternoon. Over 90 people were rescued even as a five-hour operation to contain the fire ensued. No casualty was reported. However, two firemen complained of suffocation during the rescue operation. Later on Wednesday evening, even as the fire was contained, it had not been completely doused, fire officials said.
The 33-storey Beaumonde Towers is the address of affluent owners including actor Deepika Padukone.
The fire, first classified as Level II (moderate) and later declared Level III (major) by the fire brigade, broke out at about 2:08 pm in Tower B of the complex that includes three towers. However, as a precaution, residents of Tower A and C were also evacuated by fire brigade teams. The first response team of Mumbai Fire brigade reached the spot at around 2.18 pm. In all 16 fire engines, five jumbo water tankers, two hydraulic platforms and an ambulance rushed to the spot.
A Mumbai Fire Brigade official at the spot said that while they were carrying out rescue operations on the higher floors, the fire continued spreading because of which they had to pull their force back to prevent them from being exposed to thick smoke. Due to the narrow entrance to the building complex, fire engines faced difficulty in reaching the building.
Chief Fire Officer, Prabhat Rahangdale, said: “A flat on 32nd and 33rd floor had caught fire, it started spreading to the 31st floor. However, our firefighters managed to control the fire by 6.40 pm and did not allow it to spread any further. We have rescued 90-95 persons. The firefighting operations are going on. The fire will be doused soon, following which cooling operations would begin. We are yet to ascertain the cause of the fire, which we will be able to confirm after completing the cooling operations.”
“We first mistook the alarm for something else, just yesterday we heard a similar alarm running. The moment we opened the door there was a strong smell. It was only when we came outside the building, we realised that the building was on fire.” said Caroline Schauder, a third-year student at Georgetown University in Washington DC, currently living on the eight floor of Tower B of the Beaumonde Tower. Schauder was part of a group of students on a visit to Mumbai for research.
Madison Pravecek, another member of the group of five girls from the United States, said: “We came right down and were swamped by the hoards of people waiting outside the building.”
Shantanu Sarode, a worker at the Car Service Centre across the building, said: “As soon as news of the fire in Beaumonde Tower spread, people started realising that actress Deepika Padukone lives here and so more and more people thronged to the building hoping to get a glimpse of her.”
However, Padukone was not at her residence during the time of the fire. Her staff were evacuated from the building.
Meanwhile, Padukone took to Twitter to confirm her safety to her fans. She tweeted: “I am safe. Thank you everyone. Let us pray for our firefighters, who are at the site risking their lives.”
In 2010, actor Deepika Padukone bought a plush four-bedroom apartment in the 33-storey Tower B for Rs 16 crore along with her father Prakash Padukone.
Rahangdale said, “The Beaumonde fire incident is actually an example, a lesson to be learnt by all firemen and also for residents of other high-rise buildings. Fire fighting on vertical heights is always challenging and effective if fought from within the building. As the internal fire installations present in the high-rise was operational we could operate 6 to 8 fire fighting jets at one time on 32nd, 33rd floor and also at the terrace level using breathing sets. The internal fire fighting system helped tremendously to contain the spread of fire to other floors. Hence all highrise buildings should not just install fire fighting equipment but also maintain them.”