A day after 14 people were killed in the fire at Mumbai’s Kamala Mills, eyewitnesses’ account of the incident are even more shocking. Eyewitnesses reportedly said that the rescue operations at the pub ‘1 Above’ were hampered as a few customers were drunk , and others wanted to take selfies. Further, as massive flames engulfed the pub and smoke filled the entire place, nervous customers were unable to locate emergency exits.
Reportedly, all the deaths happened due to lack of sufficient ventilation and emergency exit points.
Mahesh Sable works at a private agency providing security for Times Now, whose office is adjacent to the pub where the fire started. He said:
“At around ten minutes past midnight, I got out of my office after hearing commotion. A sea of people came rushing at me. They were basically running wherever the pathway led them to…They came up by the lift [on the terrace] and knew nothing about the place, like the proper exit. I guided about 150-200 people as I knew the way down.”
He added that some people locked themselves up in the restrooms as they couldn’t locate emergency exits. Reportedly, Sable rescued another 8-10 people with minor burn injuries but couldn’t go inside again.
Sanjay Giri, who was also on night shift with Sable said:
“I guided whoever we could see. It was later, after we went down, that they told us about their relatives and friends being stuck in the toilet. A few customers also made voice and video calls.”
Both Sable and Giri said that there were several gas cylinders kept on the ground floor that were full. But the fire brigade came in time and removed them. ‘The entire Kamala Mills compound would have been devastated otherwise,” Sable added.
Dr Sulbha G Arora who was present at the Kamala Mills at the time of the incident, was able to get out safely. Her tweet about the stampede inside the building has since gone viral:
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. Some powers were definitely protecting me #kamalamills
— Dr Sulbha KG Arora (@SulbhaArora) December 28, 2017
CM Devndra Fadnavis has ordered Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to conduct an in-depth inquiry into the incident. But the civic authority has come under fire for its lackadaisical approach towards ensuring adequate fire safety norms and failing to check construction of illegal structures inside the compound.