Mumbai: At least six persons were killed and 23 others injured in a major fire that broke out in a 20-storey residential building in Tardeo area of central Mumbai on Saturday morning, officials said.
Following the incident, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) set up an inquiry committee.
The blaze erupted around 7.30 am at Sachinam Heights, a ground-plus-20-storey building located opposite Bhatia Hospital at Gowalia Tank when many of the residents were still asleep.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Sourabh Tripathi said primary information indicated that the fire started on the 15th floor and spread upward to the 19th floor which was affected the most.
A BMC official said the blaze, which started at 7:28 am, was extinguished nearly five hours later at 12:20 pm with the help of 15 fire-tending vehicles.
The incident raised questions about the state of the fire-fighting equipment installed in the high-rise, he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the incident and announced on Twitter that ex-gratia assistance of Rs 2 lakh would be provided to the family members of each deceased from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund, and the injured would be given Rs 50,000 each.
Maharashtra Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray, who is also the guardian minister of Mumbai suburban district, visited the site and said the state government will provide a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family members of each deceased.
The blaze appeared to have been caused by a short-circuit, he said.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also condoled the deaths and urged party workers to provide assistance to the affected families.
Some residents of the building alleged that three nearby private hospitals refused to admit injured persons without advance deposit payment and negative COVID-19 certificates.
BJP leader and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis alleged that due to these hospitals turning away the victims, the death toll increased.
In a late-night release, the BMC said municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal has set up a committee headed by a deputy municipal commissioner (zone 2) to inquire into the incident. The panel has been asked to submit its report in 15 days.
Following an audit, the BMC had issued notices to 223 high-rise buildings in the city last month for the neglect of in-house fire-fighting equipment, it said.
As per a BMC official, of the injured persons, seven were taken to the BMC-run Nair Hospital and five of them died, while one more succumbed at the civic-run Kasturba Hospital.
Seventeen injured persons were admitted to Bhatia Hospital and 12 of them were in critical condition, he said.
Others were taken to Masina Hospital, Wockhardt Hospital and H N Reliance Hospital.
Prashant Gaikwad, assistant municipal commissioner of the D-ward where the building is located, said it had been given occupation certificate in 2015. Only one of its two wings was occupied, he said.
In a tweet, PM Modi said, "Saddened by the building fire at Tardeo in Mumbai. Condolences to the bereaved families and prayers with the injured for the speedy recovery."
Minister Aaditya Thackeray said on Twitter that there were reports about two hospitals refusing treatment, but the hospital authorities told him that they did admit and treat some of those injured.
Some residents said they heard a loud sound followed by black smoke, and recalled the frenzy to get out.
A 50-year-old woman who lives on the fifth floor said, "I heard some noise like firecrackers and realised that something is wrong. As we were all scared, I fell down twice while helping my husband to climb down the staircase... I don't recall how I reached the open area."
A resident of the neighbouring Matrumandir building attributed the blaze to an AC compressor explosion.
Many of the rescued persons were shifted to Matrumandir and provided first aid and snacks.
Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar said the BMC would arrange training for residents of such buildings on the protocol to be followed when a fire breaks out.
Considering the growing number of such incidents, electricity supply systems in buildings should be checked every six months, and the BMC will take steps for this, Pednekar said.