Half-burnt and half-soaked books lying on the ground, fire brigade pipes running through the building, water-logged entrances and fumes coming out of the first floor, the condition of Sohrab Hall was miserable on Monday morning. The fire had completely gutted the first floor where bookstore Crossword was located and fumes had blackened the entire right wing of the three-dimensional structure.
Priyanka Verma, who runs PL Worldways on the seventh floor of the building, was seen inspecting the structure while clicking pictures of the damage on her cellphone. “I could see the smoke from my house, which is a good distance from here. When I came here in the morning, the building was entirely covered in the smoke. It was difficult to find which part of it was damaged. The police didn’t let us in and the fire brigade vehicles were desperately trying to douse the fire. Fortunately, the part of the building which has my office is safe. However, there is no way to know if smoke or heat has caused any damage. The police are saying we will not be able to get into our offices on Tuesday either. The telephone lines have been damaged too,” said Verma.
The condition of Designer Collections, a clothing store at the basement of the building, was not good either. The incessant pouring of water had made it impossible for its owner Sunny Wadhwani to open the store. “The maintenance of the building is really bad. The drainage system has been poor for some time and it is evident from this disaster. I came to know about the incident last night and since then, I have been visiting this place intermittently,” said Wadhwani.
Ramesh Manthalkar, who looks after the maintenance of Sohrab Hall, said it was impossible to control the fire with the fire equipment available in the building. “First of all, it was a holiday and everything was closed. Nobody could tell that the first floor had caught fire. The fire spread rapidly because of the books. When the flames and smoke started coming out, we immediately called the fire brigade. The fire has completely gutted the bookstore and might have caused some damage to the Kotak Mahindra office which is on the third floor. But luckily, there are not many offices on that side of the building.”