A major fire broke out at a complex in Mumbai, claiming at least 15 lives. Officials said the blaze erupted around midnight last week at a building in the popular Kamala Mills restaurant and shopping compound, surrounding the entire structure in just 30 minutes. People who tried to escape were reportedly trapped by an artificial ceiling made of bamboo that collapsed. Another group of people who tried to seek shelter in the bathroom, died of suffocation after being trapped.
The victims also included those from Gujarat. A chartered accountant from Ahmedabad, Yasha Shah Thakkar, 27, was on a visit to Mumbai and was waiting for husband Alaap to join her. The couple was to celebrate New Year's eve together. It was said that an hour before the fire broke out on December 29, Yasha messaged her husband saying she missed him. Out for dinner with her cousin and friends, she got trapped inside the restaurant and died due to suffocation while the others survived with minor injuries. Her uncle Devendra Thakkar said both the victim and her cousin Mansi were very close and the latter is in a state of shock. He informed that after the fire broke out, a huge bamboo structure came crashing on the terrace where the group was sitting and they ran towards the exit to escape. “Yasha ran away from the exit and got trapped,” he said. Her body was brought to her home in Ahmedabad.
Also at the scene of disaster was BBC Gujarati's editor Ankur Jain, who managed to escape. “It was a happy evening which turned into the scariest night for me. I was at the restaurant with my sister and friends when we heard someone screaming, 'Run, there is a fire'. Within seconds there was a stampede and the fire engulfed the whole restaurant before anyone could realise what went wrong. The way to the fire exit was among the first places to catch fire. We managed to escape but not everyone could. We could hear blasts on the rooftop while we were running down the stairs,” he said.
Additional Commissioner of Police S Jaykumar said they booked all three partners of the restaurant where the fire started. It took nearly six hours for the blaze to be doused. Several bodies were found in washrooms later. BMC Assistant Municipal Commissioner Prashant Sapkale said the corporation had sent the eateries notices for various violations including the illegal use of terrace to serve food and drinks without valid permissions. Fire brigade officials said the blaze had spread in minutes due to the combustible material used in the interiors.