Mumbai: Fourteen persons, including a young woman celebrating her birthday, were asphyxiated, and at least 23 others injured in a major fire that engulfed a pub and other establishments here early on Friday, an official said.
According to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Disaster Control, the blaze reportedly broke around 12.30 a.m. from a bistro The Mojo, a rooftop restaurant in The Kamla Trade House, a posh business-cum-entertainment hub in Lower Parel area of south-central Mumbai.
The flames quickly spread and caught another adjacent pub and a restaurant, all housed in the Kamla Mills Compound, virtually trapping over 200 people on the premises.
The tragedy has cast an ominous shadow on the upcoming New Year 2018 celebrations in the maximum city renowned for its varied night life, late-night parties and outings.
Among the victims was Khushboo Mehta, who was celebrating her 28th birthday party in the restaurant with a group of friends, her family members confirmed.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis have expressed grief over the incident.
The BMC official said more than 12 fire tenders were rushed to fight the blaze which was finally brought under control and extinguished around 6.30 a.m when the full impact of the disaster it wrought came to light.
While the majority of the victims were reported to have died on the spot, the firemen were able to rescue 10 people safely.
The injured have been admitted in the KEM Hospital, Bhatia Hospital, Airoli Burns Hospital, while two with minor injuries were taken to Sion Hospital, where they were treated and discharged.
Autopsies of the victims have revealed that a majority of the casualties occurred due to asphyxiation more than the burns, said Avinash Supe, Dean, KEM Hospital.
The entire pub and the surrounding complex was full of patrons, including many women and tourists thronging the fashionable area to unwind.
Mumbai Police have booked the owner of an adjoining pub for negligence, culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Initially the blaze was suspected to be triggered by an electric short-circuit.
There are many major corporates, TV-radio-print media offices, more than three dozen high-end restaurants, pubs, etc, which also suffered damages in the blaze and their working was likely to be affected on Friday.
The Times Network with offices of all its major channels in the same complex was hit temporarily and all employees were evacuated to safety.
After the disruptions, Times Now, Times Now HD, ET Now and Mirror Now were operational by late morning, while Movies Now, Movies Now HD, MN+, MNX HD, Romedy Now, Romedy Now HD, and Zoom shall be back on air shortly, an official spokesperson said.
The blaze comes as a huge setback to the government’s plans to make nightlife attractive by permitting all shops/malls to function round-the-clock, to generate more employment and boost tourism in the state.
Barely nine days ago the state government had notified the relevant amendments to the laws, though it was not made applicable to bars, pubs, discotheques and wine shops.
However, these were expected to come under the ambit of the new laws in due course, with the BMC initiating several measures in this direction.
Blaming the BMC for the fire, Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam said that stringent action should be initiated against those persons responsible for allowing the eateries to function despite rules being flouted.
Quoting a friend who witnessed the conflagration, Congress legislator Nitesh Rane claimed that a hookah parlour caused the blaze and not a short-circuit as speculated. He added that Mojo and another restaurant are only issued food licences, but not hookahs to customers.
Yuva Sena President Aditya U. Thackeray, one of the proponents to improve Mumbai nightlife, said implementation of fire safety norms were a must and BMC would come down hard on violators.
Bharatiya Janata Party MP Kirit Somaiya attacked the Shiv Sena-controlled BMC for lapses on its part which led to the fire and demanded a complete fire-audit of all buildings in the city immediately.