Ship ablaze in Bombay docks

Bombay, April 14.

The Bombay Government have issued the following communique: “At about four this afternoon an accidental fire broke out in a ship in the docks and before it could be brought under control, it spread to some ammunition and caused two violent explosions. The fire also spread to the adjacent godowns.

“The fire services, military and the A.R.P. got on the scene immediately and as a result of the efforts, the situation is now under control. A number of casualties have unfortunately occurred and the injured are being attended to in the hospitals.”

H.E. the Governor of Bombay visited the affected area immediately after the explosion and spent some considerable time there.

Rescue work

Bombay, April 15.

The whole of Bombay’s defence services went into action against the fire in the dock area which followed two explosions yesterday afternoon. Port Trust A.R.P. officials on the spot at the time of the first explosion joined with the police to throw cordons around the area and evacuate those inside.

Ambulances and fire engines hurried to the scene with fire fighters to tackle their difficult task. Women ambulance drivers turned out in strength, while firemen, police and soldiers worked to get the fire under control. A.R.P. officials worked with army and navy officers to co-ordinate plans for the effective use of all available fire-fighting material.

Scores of workers from the dockside business houses returned as soon as the initial danger from explosions had passed to organise the carriage of valuable and inflammable material from their firms’ premises. The police penetrated deep into the danger area to assist civilians and lead them to safety, carrying their bundles of household goods over their shoulders. Volunteer helpers carried casualties on charpoy stretchers to the waiting ambulances and the first-aid posts.

Guards were placed along the main streets where overhead tram wires had been felled by flying debris. Happening as it did when Bombay workers were leaving their business houses, the cessation of the tram services created a temporary boom for taxi drivers who ran their vehicles continuously late into the night.

Local train services to Victoria Terminus suspended

The local train services from the suburbs to the Victoria Terminus have been suspended and for the present terminate at Byculla.

Army officer’s account

“I was one of the first to arrive,” writes a military observer. “Already thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen were leading the rescue efforts and fighting the flames. They were rushed to the scene in trucks from military headquarters all over Bombay and district.”

For many hours, he says, Indians, British and American personnel worked side by side with firemen, police and A.R.P. men.

Through the pall of smoke the soldiers got to work, emptying the roadside shops and tenements of their furniture and stores in case the fire should spread that far.

Their instructions were short and simple — “tackle any fire you see,” said the officer in charge.

Some of the men performed tasks of great danger. Four sailors who were first on the scene raced from house to house as the flames advanced, warning the occupants to leave.

There were countless individual acts of bravery and coolness after the havoc of the first explosion. Soldiers working in the warehouses and sailors from ships in the docks moved among the injured, carrying them to the streams of ambulances which began to arrive and improvising stretchers.

R.M.J.H. Roberts, of Glamorgan, although injured when the roof of his office fell on him, guided 17 Indian soldiers to safety from a wrecked building.

One entire battalion worked to empty godowns of inflammable stock and pulled down shacks in the path of the flames. All night servicemen were busy on the scene, grimy and tired, checking the fire and saving valuable equipment threatened by the flames. — A.P.I.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 11:22:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/ship-ablaze-in-bombay-docks/article26848767.ece

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