Mumbai high-rise fire could have been avoided had developer, BMC taken safety measures

No action was taken despite several complaints to the developer and the civic body about the lack of safety measures, including a non-functional firefighting system, said residents of the 15-storey Sargam Society in Tilak Nagar where a fire killed five people and injured two others on Thursday.

The residents from Friday have been demanding punishment for the builder of the society, which allegedly does not have a fire no-objection certificate (NOC) too.

According to some residents, the fire started around 7.25pm in flat no. 1101 (11th floor) of B-wing where a short-circuit in a Christmas tree led to the fire. Shambhu Shirsat, a resident, said, “I was resting in my room when I heard people on the top floor shouting for help. I woke my family up and rushed them down the building.”

A metal ladder built by residents (A and B wings) after their repeated complaints were ignored saved at least 20 residents.

Adding to the safety lapses, for the single hose line that goes up to the top floor, there are no connections for sprinklers on any of the floors.

The building did not have enough space around it for firefighting, which is required under the rules. The fire brigade took longer to reach the site as the approach road to the building had many vehicles illegally parked. The fire brigade could not enter the premises with the turntable ladder (that provides access to higher floors ). The firefighters then had to climb the stairs up to the 11th floor .

Sumedh Kadam, a resident, said, “The developer was supposed to look after the fire refuge areas and safety installations. Following no response from him, we constructed the ladder, which saved nearly 15-20 people. Residents living above the 11th floor had nowhere to escape. They somehow managed to reach the terrace and came down from the other wing of the building.”

Previously, the society was a Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) building that was redeveloped by a company in 2014. Requisite construction permits were given by BMC at the time of redevelopment. There were around 36 original families that were rehabilitated.

Uday Samant, president of MHADA, said, “I visited the society on Friday . The residents have been cheated. The developer has given false assurances that all approvals from the concerned authorities are in place, whereas the society does not even have a fire NOC. I have asked my officials to probe this matter and initiate action .”

Despite repeated attempts, HT was unable to reach the builder.

Meanwhile, Opposition leaders accused the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) of apathy. Leader of the Opposition Ravi Raja demanded the suspension of the fire brigade officer in charge of Chembur, in BMC’s standing committee meeting on Friday.

Ravi Raja said, “Sargam society in Chembur had informed BMC and the fire brigade almost a year ago, that their building’s firefighting system has not been working. Despite this, the BMC remained inactive.”

There have been dozens of fire accidents across Mumbai in 2018, both in residential and commercial buildings

First Published: Dec 29, 2018 01:05 IST

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