The Kamala Mills fire: a look at how the events unfolded

Fire dept., BMC probe fire cause, politicos make rounds of site

One of the restaurants devastated by the fire.

One of the restaurants devastated by the fire.  

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Reason could be burning hookah coals, fire stunts or electrical short-circuit

Mumbai: A day after the Kamala Mills blaze claimed 14 lives, fire brigade officers said they were probing if a fire stunt by a bartender, burning coal used for hookah or a short circuit led to the tragedy. The blaze had started after 12.30 am on Friday at the ‘1 Above’ pub on the terrace of Trade House Building in Kamala Mills compound in Lower Parel, a commercial hub, resulting in collapse of its bamboo-propped canopy. The fire, which left several people injured, also engulfed Mojo’s Bistro, a pub a storey below. Most of the victims died of asphyxiation.

K.V. Hiwrale, Deputy Chief Fire Officer, said, “There are multiple reports from the media on the possible cause of the fire. We need to be absolutely sure. The investigating team would be taking into account eyewitness accounts.”

A fire department officer added, “We are probing if the flames created during a fire stunt by a bartender at the pub came in contact with plastic sheets that covered the bamboo structure and triggered the blaze. We are also trying to find out whether the burning coal used for hookah at the adjacent restaurant led to the tragedy.”

While the probe is yet to reveal the cause, an electrical short-circuit is widely believed to have been the culprit. However, investigations have revealed that 1 Above was serving hookah and the burning coal was in abundance. It is also speculated that the fire could have started in Mojo’s Bistro, where bartenders would regularly put on a show, which involved fire. The roof was entirely made up of bamboo and plastic.

The fire department is also investigating the two fire exits. The closest one to 1 Above was practically invisible and blocked due to the fire, according to fire officers. The other exit was at the other end of the restaurant, and could be accessed only through a series of doors and a narrow passage where only one person could fit at a given time.

A BMC team also conducted a survey of the gutted property, but team members refused to share preliminary findings.

Local Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant, who visited Kamala Mills, said a judicial probe is necessary. “We can only pursue issues, but ground-level investigations need to be done by ward officers and senior BMC officers. It’s the administration’s responsibility,” he said.

Mr. Sawant demanded that the owner of Kamala Mills compound too be held accountable. “He is also equally responsible for letting this happen,” he said. Later, police registered an FIR against the Kamala Mills owner.

Mumbai Regional Congress Committee president and former MP Sanjay Nirupam said MLA Sudhakar Deshmukh had pressurised local ward officers to grant permissions to 1 Above and Mojo’s Bistro. He alleged Mr. Deshmukh, a BJP MLA from Nagpur (West), had threatened local ward officers with suspensions and transfers if permissions were not granted to the two restaurants.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 6:54:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/fire-dept-bmc-probe-fire-cause-politicos-make-rounds-of-site/article22336102.ece

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