Fires broke out in Ambedkar Nagar slum near the Backbay depot in Cuffe Parade area of south Mumbai and in an area near Wadala RTO.

One person died and more than 500 shanties were gutted in a major fire that broke out on Thursday morning at the Ambedkar Nagar slum in Cuffe Parade area of South Mumbai.

Hundreds of families from the slum rushed outside with their belongings as soon as the fire started. It resulted in unprecedented traffic jam in South Mumbai for more than three hours. Around 16 fire engines were sent to the spot and more than 300 police personnel were deployed to control the crowd.

“We are yet to ascertain the cause of fire, but there were cylinder explosions after the fire started,” said Deputy Chief Fire Officer, PS Rahandale. He said that more than 70,000 sq ft area has been burned down due to fire. The fire brigade faced difficulties to enter inside the slum due to congested lanes and had to bring water pipelines from over the top of shanties.

The fire broke out around 10.30 am in the morning. “I was alone in the shanty, when I heard screams of people. We saw smoke coming out from shanties near to the sea shore. I managed to pack expensive items and cash in a bag and rushed outside,” said Nafisa Khan, a resident from the slum.

Salim Sheikh, another resident of the slum said that he heard loud explosions, presumably of cylinders after the fire broke out.

Sharad Barde, Senior Police Officer of Cuff Parade police station said that the authorities cordoned off the area immediately after the fire broke out. The forensic team too has been called to investigate the exact reason behind fire.

The Ambedkar Nagar slum is one of the biggest slums in South Mumbai, with more than 16,000 people. The land prices in Cuffe Parade are soaring and the flats are being sold at the rate of Rs 50,000 to 80,000 per sqft. Some of the residents expressed the possibility of sabotage by builder lobby, who are interested in redevelopment of the area.

"This has been fourth fire in last two months. It seems everything has been planned,” said Ashok Patil, a resident of the slum and local leader of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He said that the agents of various builders are asking people to sell their shanties for Rs 50,000. “We suspect that the builders groups are doing it purposely,” he said.