AN 82-YEAR-OLD woman was killed in a fire that broke out in the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) building near Mahalaxmi Racecourse in the wee hours of Sunday. The fire brigade is set to initiate action against the housing society for not following safety measures.
The fire broke out in the electrical cabin on the ground floor of 18-storey A 1, Samrat Ashok Cooperative Housing Society, around 2.30 am. The deceased, Laxmi Koli, was a resident of the fourth floor. It is suspected that she died in a stampede-like situation that took place after the blaze started, said a fire department official. As many as 76 people were rescued and 56 of them suffered minor injuries.
At present, 19 people are in the hospital. Officials said a man and a woman are in the ICU of Bhatia Hospital and their condition is said to be critical. Nine men and eight women are admitted in Nair Hospital.
The building is seven years old and developed under the cluster redevelopment project. Officials said that the building’s fire fighting system was not functional and a lot of combustible material was stored in the electrical cabin, which created a huge cloud of smoke. Four fire engines and four water tankers were pressed to control the fire, which was categorised as Level II (major).
A fire brigade senior official said, “The fire started in the electrical cabin on the ground floor and heavy smoke engulfed the upper floors where more than 60 people got trapped. Before the fire brigade’s arrival, around 20 people were sent to Nair Hospital.”
“Initially, we heard some noise like crackers being burst at the electrical cabin. When we opened it, smoke started spreading. Everybody was running to save their lives but visibility had become almost zero. The elderly woman could have died due to a stampede,” said a resident from the building. The building has 14 flats on each floor.
Chief Fire Officer P S Rahangdale said, “Household articles were kept in the electrical cabin, due to which the fire spread on upper floors. Though the cause of the fire is being investigated, action will be initiated under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measure Act, 2006 against the society.” Deputy Chief Fire Officer Hemant Parab added: “We had inspected the building in October and found major violations, as no firefighting equipment like a fire alarm, wet rises, sprinklers and pumps were working. Also, there was a lot of encroachment in the electrical cabin with residents filling it up with articles. We had sent the society a notice asking it to take corrective measures. But nothing was done.”
“We are in the process of filing a police complaint and prosecution will be initiated against the society,” he said.