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

Survivors remember screaming, confusion, no clear fire exit

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Mumbai: In the burn victims unit at the Bhatia hospital, the injured survivors of the fire have had their burns wrapped in medicated dressings, and they are recuperating in rooms kept extra cool, to help them heal. The doctor on duty said that they were feeling pain, which is a good sign, and were responding to medication. Anxious relatives and friends wait in the corridors for news of the condition of their loved ones, and were keeping others informed.

Thoran Thakur got away from the fire with just a few burns on her hands. The 29-year-old merchandiser remembers that when the fire began, “My husband started to shout, but because the music was loud, no one heard it. When the DJ turned off the music, people started to panic and rushed out of the restaurant.” She says that the stairway was far from the restaurant, and there was no proper fire exit. Ms. Thakur says that she and her friends tried to use the fire extinguishers, but they did not work, which led to more panic. Some patrons tried to call the fire department, but it took a while for the control room to understand where the site was. He husband Prathik, who sustained burns on his arms and shoulders, says that the fire broke around 12:20 a.m., and within seconds spread to the neighbouring restaurant, Mojos’s. “I was screaming, and I pushed my wife out to save her. While I was running down the stairs, I heard two gas cylinders explode.” He complains that the car parking attendant did not help those rushing out, and instead asked for parking coupons. “The restaurant staff helped us, but the car parking guy acted like an idiot.”

Pallavi Jakhia, 26, who was at the restaurant with her husband and friends, has nearly 40% burns. Her uncle says that she, with her husband and friends, were at the restaurant. “When the fire began, she rushed to the toilet and called the fire station, but these officers couldn’t hear properly. She started to feel suffocated and came out of the bathroom to just realize that the fire was horrible.” Ms. Jakhia mustered her courage and ran through the fire to save herself, but she lost two of her best friends and their aunt. (See [‘I’m not going to make it’] below.)

Some of the victims say that the materials used for the ‘temporary’ covering for the roof-top restaurant, were the primary cause of the fire. “They should have used fireproof sheets,” said a victim’s parent. Sneha M, a friend of a victim, says that her friend told her that, the tarpaulin roof had caught fire. “God knows how my friend escaped,” she says.

“We are not sure when the fire started,” says Deep Shroff, another victim, who has 15% to 20% burn injuries. But no sooner had it become visible that “it engulfed the whole area in 20 seconds. People were trying to get out, and there was a mad rush. Some went into bathrooms, or into the kitchen. We didn’t see any emergency exit. I couldn’t even see the staircase anywhere close to the restaurant. I had to get into the lift to exit.” He says he and some others who managed to get out fell, and were trodden over by others escaping. He says molten plastic from the tarpaulin dripping over hands and heads caused injuries for him and others.

Antariksh Vadara, a restaurateur, was at the hospital because a friend, a regular at his own establishment, was dining with others and was injured and called him. “He recognised me,” he said after seeing his friend, “but his condition was terrible.” He says the restaurant’s owners must be held responsible for the tragedy.

Naresh Doshi says his cousin, Neel Doshi, 32, called him around midnight about being hurt in the fire, and he immediately to the site. Neel has chest and shoulder burns, he says. “I am shocked to see something like this. He is a strong man, but I don’t know how to answer his parents.”

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 5:59:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/survivors-remember-screaming-confusion-no-clear-fire-exit/article22329161.ece

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