Mumbai Kamala Mills Fire: A fire at Kamala Mills compound in Lower Parel, Mumbai, has killed 14 people.
Mumbai: Fourteen people including 11 women, most of them in their 20s and early 30s, died of suffocation and several others injured in a huge fire that started from a restaurant in Mumbai's Kamala Mills compound late on Thursday night, and spread rapidly to nearby restaurants and offices as well. The loss of lives has sparked a massive outrage. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said five Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, or BMC, officials have been suspended and a case registered against owners of the pub,"1 Above". He added that officials would also face criminal cases if an inquiry indicted them of being "deliberately negligent".
Here are the top 10 updates on Mumbai's Kamala Mills fire:
An activist of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had reportedly complained in October to the civic body BMC about illegal structures that could cause a disaster, but he was told there was "nothing illegal". Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has also ordered a city-wide safety audit of similar structures and demolition of illegal structures.
The BJP, which has been in power in BMC for two decades with the Shiv Sena, said there had been negligence. At least 3 notices were issued and the pub was closed also. But it reopened, Maharashtra BJP spokesperson Shweta Shalini told NDTV. "That is why the Chief Minister stepped in and said if we find a similar kind of negligence, then officials will be booked too," she said.
A majority of those killed were women who had come for a birthday party at the rooftop restaurant, police said. The 28-year-old woman celebrating her birthday was among the victims. There have been allegations that civic authorities ignored construction irregularities and violated safety norms in the compound.
The fire is suspected to have started a little after 12.30 am and spread quickly. Witnesses said the entire building was engulfed in flames in less than half-an-hour. The fire is believed to have spread further as the roof of the restaurant was made of bamboo and tarpaulin sheets. "Almost all (the victims) died of asphyxiation," Dr Harish Pathak, forensic department head, KEM Hospital, said.
The restaurant, "1 Above", later insisted that it had all the permissions and had adhered to the fire safety protocols. In a statement, it also claimed the fire started from "quarters" adjoining the restaurant and its emergency exit was used by customers from the adjoining Mojo's Bistro too.
Dr Sulbha Arora, a Mumbai doctor, said she was at the restaurant when the fire broke out. "There was no time for anyone to reach out because the fire spread so rapidly. The staff of the restaurant were trying to help the customers as much as possible," the eyewitness and survivor told NDTV on phone. "People were running over me even as the ceiling above me was collapsing in flames," she tweeted and described the incident as the "scariest thing I have ever survived".
On Twitter, President Ram Nath Kovind condoled the Kamala Mills fire deaths. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also tweeted, "Anguished by the fire in Mumbai. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief. I pray that those injured recover quickly."
Actor and Rajya Sabha lawmaker Jaya Bachchan said, "I have been to Kamala Mills, it is like a bhool bhulaiaya, has narrow lanes. So obviously there has been negligence."
Shiv Sena lawmaker Sunil Shinde, who had reached the hospital after the fire demanded a "proper inquiry". "Who has given them (restaurants) the licence? They are responsible for this incident," he told reporters. Another Sena leader Aditya Thackeray, tweeted, "Implementing fire audits of such places are a must, and action will be taken if violations are found."
Several news channels which operate from the compound had to shut down broadcast due to damage to their equipment. Once an industrial area in central Mumbai's Lower Parel locality, the 37-acre premises houses a host of swanky restaurants that had moved in over the last few years to make it a popular nightlife destination.