At least 14 people were killed and dozens more were injured when a huge fire erupted at a popular Mumbai rooftop restaurant, Indian police officials have said.
According to Reuters, 11 of the 14 identified victims were young women attending a birthday party in the restaurant, including the celebrant – a young woman who had just turned 28. Local police and family members of the victims have also confirmed this.
The Daily News reported that the fire erupted around 1 a.m. on Friday, spreading quickly from the rooftop restaurant throughout the four-story commercial building in Kamala Mills, an upscale entertainment, and business complex in central Mumbai.
Kamala Mills is a major nightlife district, hosting several corporate offices, as well as high-end pubs and restaurants. The fire started at 1 Above, a popular bar and restaurant on the top floor, resulting in a fiery blaze that engulfed the entire building in less than 30 minutes, local media reported.
Mumbai fire service official Balkrishna Kadam said that the fire department had received a call about a raging blaze in the building around 3 in the morning, with first responders arriving at the scene of the fire shortly after that. Dozens of firefighters battled the flame for more than five hours, Kadam said, with eight fire engines aiding them on the spot.
Video footage captured by bystanders and shown on local media outlets showed a blazing fire spreading from the rooftop down, engulfing a roof-like shelter which then collapsed. The bar’s bamboo ceiling caught fire quickly and immediately collapsed, falling on people trying to escape the blaze, the TimesNow TV news channel said.
Several people who managed to escape the fire shared their horrific experience on social media, with Sulbha Arora Mumbai, a Mumbai gynecologist, tweeting “There was a stampede and someone pushed me. People were running over me even as the ceiling above me was collapsing in flames. Still, don’t know how I got out alive.”
Along with dozens of people who have been injured in the fire, several TV news channels whose offices were located in the compound had to shut down and evacuate. At least three national news channels suffered substantial damage. Sharad Jadhav, a producer for TV-9, told the Daily News that the damage from the fire was able to block many of the building’s exits.
It was not only difficult but impossible to move out the front door, so we tried to move out our other emergency exit, even though fireballs were falling down,” he said. “Somehow I managed to get everybody out of the place one by one, and then I came out, and when we came out the roof of the restaurant came crashing down.”
More than 50 people were brought to King Edward Memorial Hospital, with 12 of whom were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, Avinash Supe, a doctor who was on duty at the time, said to the Daily News. Commenting on the number of fatalities, he said that all of the deaths were caused both by burns and asphyxiation.
Only 14 victims were identified of the 15 confirmed deaths, with 11 of them being women attending a birthday party at the 1 Above restaurant. According to local police, a case of culpable homicide has been filed against the owners and the manager of the restaurant. No news outlets reported on any arrests being made.
Friday’s horrific fire is another example of the poor safety standards and very lax enforcement of existing safety regulations causing significant damage to the city and its people.
Earlier this month, a fire broke out inside a sweet shop, trapping workers in the loft of the building, which later collapsed due to substantial structural damage from the fire. All 12 of the workers in the shop have died on the way to the hospital, BBC reported back on December 18.
In September, a gas cylinder exploded on a construction site in Mumbai, causing a fire that killed six people working on the site and injured dozens of others. Substantial structural damage has been reported on the site, too.
With disasters like this fairly common in Mumbai, a city where more than 12 million people in cramped, dilapidated properties to battle high rental prices and a lack of space. Residents of Mumbai frequently accuse construction companies and landlords of cutting corners when it comes to safety. With the practice’s high cost now measured in human lives, a change might be on the way.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed his condolences in the wake of the tragedy, tweeting “Anguished by the fire in Mumbai. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief. I pray that those injured recover quickly.”