Mumbai: Mumbai Mayor Vishvanath Mahadeshwar, who visited the Kamala Mills premises on Friday morning, 12 hours after 15 people perished in a massive fire that engulfed an entire building, said, "I cannot be aware of all that is happening in Mumbai".
Triggering outrage among survivors and the devastated families of the victims, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Mayor arrived at the spot only around noon on Friday while the fire had started at 12:30 am and ravaged through the area for several hours.
Fourteen people have perished and 21 persons left injured after a major fire wreaked havoc at the Kamala Mills Compound in Lower Parel. Most of the casualties were women who were attending a birthday party at one of the restaurants in the compound.
Mahadeshwar said, "I can't be aware of all that is happening in Mumbai. What do we have the ward officers for? Fourteen people have lost their lives and it is a serious matter. An inquiry has been ordered and a report will be sought to see who is responsible. Action will be taken."
Five BMC officials have been suspended while police have booked three persons of a hospitality firm that manages the pub that caught fire.
The BMC Mayor said that he has asked the commissioner to set up an inquiry committee to probe the incident. "The report will come soon and action will be taken after the report is prepared," he said.
Doctors who examined the deceased and conducted post mortem said that almost all victims died due to asphyxiation and not burns. Both firefighters and survivors have narrated how the narrow exit of the building complex posed a hindrance for the evacuation process.
The entire building with several commercial establishments, hotels, restaurants and popular pubs, has only one narrow entrance and exit point. The late night fire caused a stampede-like situation when the panicked crowd tried to reach the exit point. Some rushed to a nearby restroom to escape the fire, but later suffocated to death as there was no ventilation in the toilet as well.
Activist Mangesh Kalaskar raised the issue of illegal construction and said, "I made several complaints regarding illegal structures at Kamala Mills' premises, but the BMC replied that there is nothing wrong here."
When CNN-News18 posed a question to the Mayor about alleged malpractices in the civic body, he said, "Fire audit of all places must happen. We want to see why the BMC didn't investigate cases where there were violations of norms. I can't say if all officers of the BMC are involved in taking bribe, we don't have proof of that. But action is taken against those who take bribes."