Mumbai: In one of the most successful fire-fighting operations in the city, 100 hapless citizens pinned to a terrace by a massive fire and lethal smoke, were rescu-ed from the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) building in Bandra on Monday.
The blaze erupted around 2.30 pm and the fire department received the first call around 3pm, which they termed as a level IV call, a euphemism for a 'massive fire.'
The department lost no time in rushing tenders and a rescue team to the spot. Initially, the ladders were unable to reach the terrace of the building where scores of people were holed up.
Immediately, the services of fire tenders with turntable ladders were requisitioned, which alone could have accessed the terrace. (These ladders can accommodate 5-6 people at a time.)
Preliminary reports said the fire broke out on the third and the fourth floors, in this ground-plus- nine storeyed building. Some of the occupants of the building said there was a stench of burnt electricals but before they could fathom what was happening a thick smoke had enveloped the interiors.
Within a few minutes it was all panic stations with people scurrying around like headless chicken, scream-ing ‘FIRE’. But, to their credit, after three hours of grappling with the intense blaze, the firefighters had managed to rescue all those trapped in the building.
For the record, the blaze was doused with the help of 25 fire appliances, which included 14 fire engines, a robot, six jumbo water tankers,
one quick rescue van, 160 breathing apparatus sets and one ambulance. "Around 150 firemen were involved in this operation. It is one of the biggest successful fire-fighting and rescue operations in recent times," said Chief Fire Officer Prabhat Rahangdale.
Some eyewitness said more than 100 people were stranded. The staff, scared for their lives, ran to the terrace of the building in a desperate bid to escape the toxic fumes.
Some alert residents of an adjacent building informed the police and the fire brigade that they had heard screams emanating from the staff quarters of the MTNL building as well.
Of course, such was the scale of the fire that a few sustained minor injuries and had to be given first aid on the spot; one fireman, Sagar Dutta Salve, 25, felt asphyxiated and was rushed to Bhabha hospital.
"We have safely rescued all the 100 people who were trapped on the terrace and the families which were trapped in the staff quarters. As per MTNL, no one is missing.
Due to the intense fire, the searing heat and the all-enveloping smoke – emanating from all the four sides of the building -- our men took recourse to ladders and cages to rescue those stranded,’’ said Rahangdale.
He added, "The fire had spread to all the four corners of the nine-storey building, shrouding it in a thick layer of smoke. We did face difficulty but that did not deter us from carrying out our operations."
Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar disclosed that among those rescued were people trapped on the terrace and the five families in the staff quarters. He added by way of revelation that the fire audit of the building had been done.
"It seems the fire was caused due to a short circuit. The fire audit had been done in 2018. We will investigate this incident," said the Mayor.