A massive fire broke out at a slum in Mumbai's suburban Bandra West area on Tuesday morning, a fire brigade official said. So far, there have been no reports of any fatalities.
Eight water tankers, nine fire engines and 10 fire tenders were rushed to the spot to put out the blaze, the official added.
Social media users tweeted videos of a fire engine trying to douse the flames from the Bandra Reclamation flyover over the affected area of the slum. The level-III blaze was reportedly brought under control soon after it broke out.
The incident was reported at 11.50 am in the Nargis Dutt Nagar slum, located opposite the Bandra fire station, the disaster management cell of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said in a statement.
"A joint team of the fire brigade, ward staffers and Mumbai Police personnel has been mobilised to douse the flames," it added.
According to local MLA and Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar, who is overseeing the operation to rescue people in the slum, prima facie, it appears that the blaze was triggered by a cylinder blast.
Thick wafts of smoke could be seen rising from the Bandra Reclamation road. Traffic from the Western Express Highway towards Lilavati Hospital in Bandra Reclamation and vice versa was reportedly stopped temporarily.
In 10 years, 48,434 fires reported in Mumbai
While firefighters tried to douse the flames, a Right to Information (RIT) query revealed that there have been 48,434 incidents of fire accidents in Mumbai in the past decade.
Mumbai-based RTI activist Shakeel Ahmed Sheikh obtained the statistics from the Mumbai Fire Brigade, which noted that it had received 48,434 calls reporting fires. Among them, 1,568 broke out in high rises, 8,737 in residential buildings and 3,151 in hutments or slums. As many as 609 people died in these fires, as did five fire brigade personnel during operations to douse the blazes. These fires caused property damage worth over Rs 89 crore, the RTI query found.
The response to the RTI query further revealed that 32,516 of all the fire accidents were a result of defective electric circuits, 1,116 due to gas cylinder leakages or explosions " which unconfirmed reports suggest triggered the fire in Bandra " and 11,889 due to other reasons.
In August, four people died after the 16-storey Crystal Tower caught fire in Mumbai's Parel locality. Three of them died after they rushed inside the building ablaze to help. Twenty-three people, including three firemen, were injured in the incident. The building reportedly had no occupancy certificate, and its fire-fighting system was non-functional, even though residents had been living there for five years. The Crystal Tower fire was the third instance of a blaze in a Mumbai high rise in three months.
In December 2017, a fire at a rooftop pub in Lower Parel's Kamala Mills had killed 14 people. They had died of suffocation in the smoke at the pub. Investigations later revealed that the restaurant, along with a few others in the Kamala Mills complex, had violated fire safety norms.
Activist Heena Shroff said the government must strictly enforce the Maharashtra Fire and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, which has not been implemented. "Even the pandals set up during festivals need fire No Objection Certificates (NOCs)," she said. "Who comes to check if the pandals are safe? Pedestrians and cars go by pandals, yet they are set up on roads. Fire NOCs are given just for the sake of it. In high rises, there are no regular drills, and equipment are rusted. Authorities are casual about preventive measures."