A youth died of suffocation while three others suffered burns after a fire broke out at the Anudatta Apartment,a seven-storey building,near Vitthal Mandir in Navi Peth in the early hours of Saturday. The fire also destroyed 25 two-wheelers and two bicycles
The deceased has been identified as Balaji Madanmohan Jaju (25),a native of Karnataka,who was currently living on the sixth floor of apartment. Those injured included Gaurav Mahavir Atunikar (31),his wife Shalmani Atunikar (31) and Balajis room mate Atul Narayan Agarwal (27).
The cause of fire was not known till late evening. It is however suspected that short circuit may have taken place in the electricity meter box in the parking lot of the apartment around 3 am.
The fire soon spread to the parking lot. As a result,the petrol tanks of the two-wheelers burst,causing huge flames and smoke along with noise. This panicked the residents of the building and the neighbourhood.
The residents were unable to move out as the parking lot and the duct space were gutted. A local resident said the deceased Balaji along with his friend Atul were trying to exit the building. However,they lost consciousness due to suffocation and collapsed on the staircase. Mahavir Atunikar,residing on the second floor,too tried to escape but were caught in the flames in the parking lot.
Meanwhile,some residents alerted the fire brigade around 3.30 am. Five fire tenders,water tankers and an ambulance along with a big team of firemen,including chief fire officer Prashant Ranpise rushed to the spot.
The apartment is located in a narrow lane and has two entrances. But due to the fire in the parking space in the middle of the entrances,no resident was able to escape. Also,the galleries of most of the flats in the building have iron grills.
Only one of the galleries of a flat on the first floor owned by Sanjay Pawar had a small opening. The firemen rescued a few residents,including a six-month-old baby,through this opening. They doused the flames and brought the situation under control in 40 minutes,thus saving the lives of about 30 more residents.
The injured were admitted to a hospital. The police said that Balaji was pronounced dead while Atul was undergoing treatment at Sassoon hospital. The Atunikar couple were admitted at Surya hospital for treatment.
Balaji and Atul were staying on rent in flat number 602. The police have informed their family members in Koppal,Karnataka. The police said Atul hails from Washim. The duo were studying and working in Pune. The Atunikars are natives of Kolhapur.
Old wires prone to short circuit
A fire officer said that Anudatta Apartment is about 30 years old. Electricity wires in many such buildings in the city are old and prone to short circuit. Residents in such building should get their electricity wires checked and replace it if necessary to prevent such mishaps.
Timely action by firemen saved lives
Residents in the building were fast asleep when the fire broke out. A resident Chandan Pawar said,There was major panic. Blasting of petrol tanks of two-wheelers created loud noise around 3 am. The smoke was so thick that we could not even see anything. We did not know how to run away and save our lives. Thankfully the firemen reached on time and rescued us. Flats on first floor suffered major damage. All the vehicles in the parking actually turned into ashes.
Another resident said 17 families live in the apartment. Most of them had LPG cylinders in their kitchens. Some residents deposted their cylinders in gallery. A huge crowd gathered at the spot as the fire brigade was carrying out rescue operation. Senior police officers rushed to the spot to ensure law and order.