Kamala Mills compound fire in Mumbai kills 14: Blaze latest in city incidents caused by safety norm violations

Editor's note: This article was originally published on 19 December, 2017 and is being updated and republished in the view of the Kamala Mills fire that broke out late on Thursday night.

At least 14 people have been confirmed dead and 16 others injured after a major fire broke out late on Thursday at a building in Kamala Mills Compound in Lower Parel. The fire is suspected to have started at a roof-top restaurant at the compound a little after 12.30 am and had spread quickly. Reports also said that an FIR has been lodged against the owners of the place who allegedly did not conform to fire safety regulations. Several other reports also said that a short-circuit caused the fire, even though no one has confirmed it yet.

Only days ago, on 18 December, 12 labourers were charred to death after a fire broke out at a shop on Khairani Road in Mumbai's Saki Naka area. The death toll did not rise further as nine other workers managed to escape in time.

From Thursday's blaze that claimed 14 lives to the fire at the iconic RK Studio in September, this year has seen multiple incidents of major fires that led to significant loss of both life and property. Following are some of this year's incidents:

A year of major infernos

Barely hours into the new year, Mumbai's firefighters were tasked with dousing four blazes on 1 January, 2017. Fire engines were rushed to Mumbra, Malad, Dombivli and Andheri after residents reported flames, and contained all the blazes within hours.

Later that month, a major fire broke out at a slum between the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) and Masjid stations, leading to a temporary suspension of train services on the central line.

In February, a 'Level 3 fire' broke out at the Tata Cancer Hospital in Parel, which was later contained with the help of four fire engines and four water tankers that were at the spot. A week later, four labourers were charred to death in a fire that broke out at a plastic factory in Bhiwandi following an alleged short circuit, also leading to massive loss of property. Hindustan Times reported that the police had to resort to a headcount of workers in the factory when the fire broke out to identify the deceased.

Although the next three months were relatively incident free, a minor fire at the Bank of India building in South Mumbai in April forced the emergency evacuation of nearly 300 people who were trapped in the 100-year-old building. Later in May, a fire emergency was reported at Mumbai's domestic airport terminal, which was also contained soon.

In June, a major fire at choreographer Terence Lewis’ dance academy at Khar broke out with some 20 dancers still inside and rehearsing. The fire was put under control before long and the incident led to no loss of life. The year's worst fires, however, were reported in the final four months.

 Kamala Mills compound fire in Mumbai kills 14: Blaze latest in city incidents caused by safety norm violations

Rescue workers and firemen try to douse a fire which broke out in a Mumbai slum area in October. Reuters

The iconic RK Studio in Mumbai's Chembur area caught fire on 16 September, causing damage to the sets of a reality TV show which was being shot at the venue. The fire did not cost lives, although damage to property was reported to be extensive.

In the same month, six people lost their lives and 11 were injured with severe burn injuries when an under-construction building in Vile Parle caught fire. The Times of India reported that police were investigating if the fire was caused by negligence.

On 7 October, efforts to extinguish a fire that broke out at a fuel tank farm of the Mumbai Port Trust, located on Butcher Island off the east coast of Mumbai, continued for days as even after firefighters had brought the blaze under control, "excessive heat" led to re-ignition.

Later that month, thousands were left homeless after a massive fire engulfed shanties in the Garibnagar Slum in the Behrampada area in Bandra East. The hawkers and slum-dwellers bore most of the brunt. "Some furniture and windows of the booking office at the south side FOB at the Bandra station got damaged due to the fire from the nearby slums...No casualty to railway staffers or passengers was reported," a statement from the Western Railway said.

In November, two fire incidents — one inside the Arunachal Bhawan building opposite Vashi Railway Station and another in an empty monorail train — led to a disruption of public services but did not result in loss of life or major loss of property.

'Fire safety measures are not followed'

Speaking to Firstpost, deputy chief fire officer of the Mumbai Fire Brigade, Hemant D Parab, said that fire safety measures not being followed by residents is the main reason behind the high number of blazes in Mumbai this year.

"Precautions that need to be taken are not taken seriously," Parab said. "There are fire safety mechanisms already in place in most high-rise buildings. They have to be properly maintained and kept in working condition," he said.

The deputy chief fire officer added that people occupying those premises need to know how to operate the machinery. "Training has to be given as to how to operate fire extinguishers, how to evacuate the people in emergency situations so that if safety gears are available, they are appropriately utilised," Parab said.

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Updated Date: Dec 30, 2017 08:44:36 IST