The fire at Kamala Mills Compound, Mumbai on early Friday, has resulted in the death of 14 people, with 21 people being injured. This incident has also resulted in the suspension of 5 civic body officials, raising concerns over the lack of fire and safety regulations.
The fire started after 12:30 AM at the ‘1 Above’ pub and spread to ‘Mojo Bistro’ pub on the third floor, and within thirty minutes the whole building was ablaze.
11 victims out of the 14 deceased were women who came to attend a birthday celebration at the pub. They took refuge in the washroom when they couldn’t find a way out, thus getting suffocated and smothered by the burning wood and smoke. Khushbu Bansali turned 29 that day, and her grandfather blames the hotel management and authorities concerned for the entire incident. “The hotel had put up a temporary structure supported by bamboo, increasing the possibility of catching fire. There was no fire extinguishing facility either. It is the responsibility of the police and civic authorities against any violations,” he said.
Among the victims were also brothers Dhairya and Vishwa Lalani, who died trying to save their aunt and several others. They escaped as they sat near the exit, but went back in on realizing that their aunt was still stuck in, who is also one of the victims. Their cousin Viral escaped the fire and later said, “They tried to save lives and gave up their own. The fire was on a massive scale.” The victims were taken to Sion and KEM hospitals in Mumbai.
The blame game for the incident has already begun, with the opposition blaming the administration and demanding a high-level look into the tragedy. To quote Mumbai Congress Chief Sanjay Nirupam, “the fire was a result of a clear violation of fire and safety norms.” The Prime Minister has also expressed his grief following the incident.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has promised action against the administrative officials concerned and the pub owners. BMC has also suspended five officials, and have made a statement that there were several notices sent to the compound for violation of regulations.
The Kamala Mills compound is an industrial compound with fancy restaurants and other commercial areas, and also has offices of media houses. Firefighters took more than three hours to extinguish the fire and reached the scene immediately, pulling out 35 injured victims out of which 21 sustained serious burns.
Even though the chief minister has ordered a demolition of ‘illegal structures’ and a city-wide audit, this incident could have been avoided and a lot of lives could have been saved by a proper evacuation plan. It is being alleged that the compound’s restaurants did not have proper safety gear, and neither did they have trained employees.
Jaya Bachhan, actor and Rajya Sabha member, stated that Kamala Mills looks like a ‘bhool bhulaiya’, and there obviously was negligence. Activist Mahesh Vengurlekar had filed multiple complaints against illegal structures, which were brushed off saying that there was nothing illegal.
The owners of the pub have been charged with IPC Sections 337 and 338, and have been detained. Even though legal action is being taken against them, we cannot guarantee the end of such grievous incidents since the civic bodies have not been serious enough regarding fire safety till now.