Blaze at Mumbai’s Crystal Tower kills 4; Parel building flouted fire safety norms, wasn’t fit for occupation

A preliminary investigation by the Mumbai fire department revealed that the Crescent Tower building in Parel, where four people lost their lives after a blaze started Wednesday morning, was flouting several safety norms. At least 22 people also suffered injuries when at around 8.40 am a fire engulfed the residential complex located near Hindmata Cinema in Mumbai's Parel.

The fire department had to either use hydraulic lifts or access the upper floors through the building's staircase donning breathing apertures in absence of the fire safety structure. Around 100 people are said to have been rescued, the injured have been shifted to civic-run King Edward Memorial Hospital in Parel.

Firefighters outside Crystal Tower. Firstpost/Natasha Trivedi

Firemen outside Crystal Tower. Firstpost/Natasha Trivedi

At least 22 people, including four firemen, suffered from suffocation. They were rushed to the nearby KEM Hospital, where four of them, including an elderly woman, were declared brought dead, the city civic body said in a statement. All the injured were stable, the BMC said.  Two of the deceased were identified as Bablu Shaikh (36) and Shubhada Shelke (62), the civic body said, while the identity of the other two deceased is yet to be ascertained.

According to News18, two people out of the four lost their lives because they used the lift. A police official said that in a fire situations people are always advised to not to use the elevator. However, some people had panicked and tried to get out of the building using the lift.

The residents who were trapped on the top floor were evacuated using a crane. The fire, which was reportedly caused due to a short circuit, was confined to electric wiring in the duct between 12th and 16th floor. However, due to the tremendous heat, all occupants on upper floor got trapped. Besides, the smoke from the raging fire spread rapidly and residents were trapped on the building's staircases as well.

Twelve fire engines and four water tankers were used to douse the fire and the cooling operations were still underway. Mumbai Police officials and electrical mechanics are also present at the spot.

Kanchan Dulani, 49, a resident who had a flat on the 11th floor of the building, told Firstpost that she was at home when the fire started. She tried to rush out of the flat but her front door was in flames. She said the firefighters could reach her only after half an hour.

Mumbai fire brigade chief Prabhat Rahangdale said that the area around the lift of the 12th floor was the worst affected. The fire brigade reported that the Crystal Tower's internal fire-fighting system was not in a working condition.  A major tragedy could be averted only because of timely intervention, which would have been impossible in a heavy-traffic area such as Hindmata and Elphinstone Road. However, Wednesday being a public holiday, the traffic situation was better and the injured could be promptly shifted to hospitals; the fire brigade could also rush in with the resources within time.

The fire brigade also declared Crystal Tower as unsafe for occupation. It asked the authorities to disconnect electric and water supply of the building and the fire department has also asked the police to book responsible persons for criminal negligence, Rahangdale said.

The Chief promoter of the informal building committee Jayshree Patil told Firstpost that the builder had refused to pay the property tax from the time it was bought from the landlord. She says there was no development agreement even then. The residents kept trying to get the builder to pay the tax, and get the Occupancy Certificate, but it didn't happen.

Mumbai mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar lauded the firefighting department and the local police for their prompt response. He said that a thorough investigation will be launched and if anyone was found guilty then the law will take its course.

Meanwhile, at least 13 lives were saved due to the timely intervention of a good Samaritan. Zen Sadavarte, a 10-year-old child remembered instructions she had read online and kept her calm to use simple survival techniques. As soon as she saw the smoke entering their house, she opened the windows and knocked on her neighbours' doors to alert them as well. She also made a breathing mask with cotton and water for each person and asked them to inhale and exhale through it until help came.

In June of 2018, a major blaze had broken out at Beaumonde Towers in Mumbai's Prabhadevi which was doused after five hours, according to officials from the fire department. More than 90 residents were evacuated and no injuries were reported.

A massive fire engulfed a pub in Mumbai's Kamala Mills area on 29 December, killing 14 people and injuring 21. Most of those killed or wounded were youngsters celebrating a birthday. The fire engulfed portions of three separate pubs which were situated adjacent to each other.

With inputs from agencies and Firstpost contributors

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Updated Date: Aug 22, 2018 15:56 PM