Four killed in Mumbai high-rise fire

Four people were killed and 23, including three firemen, suffered injuries in a blaze at Crystal Tower in Parel on Wednesday morning. Battling intense smoke, heat, and height, the fire brigade rescued 35 people with many of them being stranded on the top four floors of the 16-storey building.

Crystal Tower is located next to Hindmata flyover on Babasaheb Ambedkar Road. The building has shops on the ground floor, parking on the first three floors followed by three flats each on the upper floors. The fire broke out on the 12th floor at around 8.20 a.m., and spread to the floors above through the electric duct. It engulfed the lift lobby, common corridor, lift shaft, and all electric wiring installations. The electric wiring has been burnt from the 10th floor.

Breathing apparatus

Eight fire engines were first sent to the spot as the blaze was initially categorised as level II. As its intensity grew, it was declared level IV (major) and 14 fire engines swung into action. The heat and smoke in the staircase made it challenging for the firemen to enter the building. They rescued some by giving them breathing apparatus and helping them go via the staircase. But many were stranded on 12th to 16th floors, and had to be rescued using a hydraulic platform.

Watchman Pramod Kumar, the first responder, said, “A resident told me there was a fire. I called as many tenants as I could on the intercom and asked them to take the stairs as I was going to cut the power supply. I don’t know how the fire started but the building is poorly constructed.”

Rajender Kapoor, a seventh floor resident, said he was home when neighbours came and said there was a fire. “I asked my son and wife to run down the stairs, while I stayed back to open the windows and turn off the cylinder, and then climbed down as well.”

“I was getting ready for office when I saw smoke. When I went to the balcony, I saw people shouting, and realised there was a fire. I ran towards the staircase but there was too much smoke. I knew if I stayed back, I would be stuck as the balcony has a grill. I then approached my neighbour’s balcony that does not have a grill, and we all stood there till we were rescued by the fire brigade using a ladder,” Rahul Dev, a tenant of the 14th floor, said.

Salomi Hyams, a resident of the ninth floor, was among a few whose balcony does not have a grill. She used the trap door of her window to get into the balcony, from where she was rescued. “There was smoke in the house. So I wrapped a wet cloth around my face and waited out on the balcony for the fire brigade to rescue,” she said.

The firemen suffered cuts and burns during the operation. All the injured were taken to KEM Hospital. Of them, two were treated at OPD, while 21 have been admitted.

Residents claimed that the fire was triggered by a short circuit in the electric duct. But, the fire brigade said they are yet to ascertain the cause.

P.S. Rahangdale, chief fire officer, said the building’s firefighting equipment was not functional. “We had to rely on our ladders for this challenging operation. Besides, the electric duct was not sealed at all levels, which is against the rules. We have disconnected the water and electric supply, and declared the building unsafe. We have also asked the police to book those responsible,” he said.

Advocate Jayshree Patil, chief promoter of the building, admitted that the building does not have an OC or fire equipment. “We had held a meeting on various issues last week and also invited the builder. But he didn’t turn up. The builder also has a lot of pending tax. Besides, we have not been able to form a society,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Bhoiwada police have registered an FIR against Abdul Razak Ismail Supariwala, developer of Crystal Towers, based on a complaint of Vinod Dattaram Mayekar, divisional fire officer, Wadala command centre.

N. Ambika, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 4), said, “The FIR has been filed under Section 304 (punishable for culpable homicide not amounting to murder), Section 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others), Section 337(causing hurt by act of endangering life or personal safety of others), and Section 338 (causing grievous hurts by act of endangering life or personal safety of others) of the IPC, and Section 3(3) of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006.”

There is discrepancy in official records over the developer’s identity. While the police have mentioned Abdul Razzak Ismail Supariwala as the developer and filed an FIR against him, the BMC record mentions the developer as ‘Ismail Haji Essa’.

The neighbouring school, Tulsi Manas Mandir Trust, helped the residents of Crystal Tower. The school’s trustee, Maniklal Shah, got the classrooms opened and the staff distributed water and biscuits. Residents now have nowhere to spend the night as the building has been declared unsafe.

The firefighting equipment was not functional. We had to rely on our ladders for this operation

P.S. Rahangdale,

chief fire officer

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