Scindia House blaze injures seven including firefighter

Raging on: Firefighters struggling to douse the blaze at Scindia House.  

Mumbai: Six people and a fireman were injured in a blaze at Scindia House in Ballard Pier on Friday afternoon.

The blaze broke out at 4.30 p.m., and the fire brigade received a call at 4.50 p.m. Eight fire engines were sent to the spot for the level III fire.

It was confined to the fourth and fifth floors where intense heat and smoke made operations difficult. The fire was declared level IV at 7.20 p.m. after which Chief Fire Officer Prabhat Rahangdale reached the building. Additional municipal commissioner I.A. Kundan also visited the spot.

Scindia House is a six-storey government building that houses various offices of the Income Tax department. These include the office of deputy director (investigations), additional director (headquarters), debt recovery tribunal, and cyber forensic lab.

The fire damaged the office of the director general of investigation in room number 324 on the third floor. While the income tax department did not issue an official statement, the office did house important documents related to the Nirav Modi and the Punjab National Bank cases.

The office was also working on setting up a state-of-the-art forensic lab for Mumbai, and an information sharing system to integrate communication with multiple agencies.

“The office was handling sensitive information such as the cases related to Modi. If the fire is a case of sabotage, it must be probed by the highest authority,” RTI activist Anil Galgali said.

P.L. Gaurav, a security guard at the L&T building opposite Scindia House, said, “Around 4.30 p.m., we heard shouting from Scindia House. By the time we rushed there, someone in the building had alerted the fire brigade. Meanwhile, we helped in evacuating people.”

The fire brigade rescued nearly 12 people. Seven, including fireman Yashwant Bhasal, were taken to St. George Hospital after they complained of respiratory problems.

Dr. Madhukar Gaikwad, medical superintendent, St George Hospital, said seven patients were brought in. “Six patients, including the fire official, were discharged after preliminary treatment. One patient, Abdul Shaikh (52), is still at the hospital.”

Dr. Gaikwad said all the patients were brought in with suffocation and breathing difficulties due to smoke inhalation.

Just when the fire brigade thought the fire had been brought under control did it re-ignite around 8.10 p.m. This time, it spread to the sixth floor.

Ganesh Kirti, a staffer who was on the ground floor canteen at the time, said, “Suddenly we heard commotion and before we knew it, we saw people running out. We rushed out and saw the flames.”

Another staffer, who was on the fifth floor, said, “We were able to run out in time after one of us saw the blaze. But some others were not so lucky and got stuck. I think the fire brigade rescued them later.”

R.K. Yadav of SIS Security, a private agency called in for crowd control, said, “We were called in the afternoon, and have been here since. This is a government office and security during such a calamity is very important.”

Firefighting operations were under way at the time of going to press. Plumes of smoke were seen coming out of the building until 9.30 p.m.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 7:24:50 PM |

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