Hours after the massive fire in Bandra’s Garib Nagar slums wreaked havoc, authorities have estimated that over 200 structures were destroyed in the blaze, affecting well over 1,000 people.
The blaze started around 3:15 pm, while a team of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials from H-east ward were carrying out a demolition drive in the slums at Garib Nagar in Behrampada near Bandra (E) station.
The fire, believed to have started due to a cylinder blast, quickly spread from the source to nearby shanties, forcing people to evacuate their homes and take shelter on the road. The Level-I fire call was escalated to a Level-IV call within an hour.
The crowded area and illegal constructions made it difficult for emergency vehicles to reach the source. Eventually, 16 fire engines and 12 water tankers were pressed into service and the fire was brought under control after nearly three hours of firefighting.
Chief Fire Officer P.S Rahangdale was also at the spot, overlooking the fire fighting operation.
# At least 200 structures – including shops and hutments – were fully or partially destroyed and over 1,000 were rendered homeless overnight due to the blaze.
# The blaze allegedly started when one of cranes deployed by the BMC tore into a structure, where someone had been cooking. However, the civic body is yet to confirm the same.
# Fire chief Rahangdale said that it might take a few days to ascertain the exact cause of fire, adding that the department will also investigate the conspiracy and sabotage angle.
# At least three firemen – ADFO Bandgar, Ajay Dhore and Arvind Ghatge – sustained injuries while firefighting and had to be rushed to Bhabha Hospital for treatment. All three are out of danger.
# A local also sustained minor injuries. However, no loss of life was reported.
# The pedestrian bridge and skywalk at Bandra (E) station were severely affected by the blaze. The furniture and windows of the booking office at the south side FOB were also damaged.
# Harbour line services had been brought to a halt for around 30 minutes during peak hours, resulting in overcrowding at several stations. However, no untoward incidents were reported due to the delays.
BMC to continue demolition:
Yesterday’s blaze started while officials from H-east ward were demolishing illegal shanties in the area per the Bombay High Court order. The court has instructed the civic body to raze around 350 illegal hutments located near the Tansa pipeline.
Around 70 hutments had been razed before the blaze started.
Since the HC has set a deadline of October 31 for the BMC to raze the structures, officials will be continuing the demolition process through the week.
“Around 350 structures from Garib Nagar are to be demolished over three days. Residents of 35 structures are eligible for rehabilitation. We had sent notices to residents even in 2015. Such fires are caused by residents to stop the demolition drive. The drive will continue on Friday as these shanties are illegal,” said Alka Sasane, Assistant Municipal Commissioner.
Locals have alleged the the BMC sent them a 48 hour notice on Wednesday, but started demolition before the deadline was over. Civic officials, however, denied the claim.
According to sources, there are between 1,000 to 1,500 shanties in the area, some of which are as tall as five-storey buildings. Many of the high-rise structures are being used for commercial purposes, including small scale garment manufacturing units.
Incidentally, this is not the first time such an incident took place in the area. In 2009, six people lost their lives when a fire broke out in Behrampada. A similar blaze had rendered more than 2,000 people homeless in 2011.
At least half a dozen minor fire-related incidents take place every year.
The BMC has deemed the area a fire hazard due to the closely knitted structures and narrow approach roads. Fire chief Rahangdale also termed the area as a ‘fire trap’ while talking about yesterday’s operations.
Related: Bandra slum fire, as it happened
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