Major fire in M’rashtra Secretariat; 2 dead
Mumbai, June 21
Fire brigade personnel, who entered the building to assess the damage caused by the fire in the building this afternoon, discovered two bodies on the sixth floor of the building, the police said late tonight.
The identities of the two victims haven't been established yet.
Panic gripped the sprawling building after the fire was first noticed around 3 pm near the cabin of Tribal Welfare Minister Babanrao Pachpute on the fourth floor. The flames spread swiftly to fifth, sixth and seventh floors.
Several people were suspected to be trapped on the upper floors and terrace, prompting authorities to press into service contingents of the elite commandos of Force One and city police’s Quick Response Teams. Two teams from the naval dockyard were also rushed.
The blaze also spread to the office of the Urban Development Department where files related to the controversial Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society and other real estate development projects were stored. Later in the evening, television channels quoting CBI officials said all files pertaining to Adarsh society were safe.
Officials of the Urban Development Department, however, pointed out that a number of crucial files pertaining to the development of Mumbai and other cities in the state may have been destroyed in the fire.
While more than a 2,000 persons are employed at the secretariat and its annexe across the road an equal number of visitors show up daily.
The secretariat is thrown open to the public after 2 pm which added to the number of people being present on the premises, sources said. Around 20 persons have been rushed to various hospitals due to complications from inhaling smoke. At least five persons are said to be in a serious condition and admitted to ICUs of various hospitals.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said disaster management drills imparted to the employees came into use because of which evacuation of the premises happened rapidly. "The whole building was evacuated in less than half-an-hour," Pawar said. Tribal Affairs Minister Pachpute, who was present in the premises, said the fire started broke out on the fourth floor near his office and spread upwards in less than an hour. "I heard a huge blast which was followed by a fire," Pachpute told reporters. Pachpute said he rushed into the adjoining cabin of another minister Jayant Patil and dragged him out of the premises.
Animal Husbandry Minister Madhukar Chavan who was trapped in the building for some time before he could find his way out said he heard air-conditioners exploding because of the heat. Relief Works Minister Patangrao Kadam who was present outside the building told reporters that he suspected a short-circuit to have caused the blaze.
As the flames spread, panic-stricken people rushed out of the premises.
Late in the evening, fire brigade personnel had to suspend their search after the smouldering remains of the afternoon’s fire flared up.
Fire tenders stationed on the secretariat premises quickly began work to douse the fire, officials said.
The search for survivors, if any, will resume after the new blaze is put out, according to officials.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said later this evening that an inquiry has been ordered to establish the cause of the fire.
Entry into the building would be suspended till engineers assess its structural stability, officials said.
Meanwhile, ministers whose offices were gutted in the blaze will work from the Sahyadri government guest house.
Adarsh files safe?