Mumbai: The massive fire that broke out at the Mantralaya building in Mumbai killed at least three people and injured as many as 14 others. The fire also gutted the offices of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, the Chief Secretary and several other ministers.
Hours after the incident, the Chief Minister, along with fire officials entered the premises of the Mantralaya for inspection. The Maharashtra government also ordered an inquiry into the massive fire even as sources suggested that a short circuit could have caused it.
Earlier, Chavan had announced that all the important files of the secretariat were safe.
"There are around 3 crore 50 lakh pages scanned as back up. Fire fighters will continue to work throughout the night. Fire is under control now. Inquiry has been ordered. Crime branch will start inquiry. Fire started on fourth floor from room no 411," he said.
Chavan further said, "Navy and coast guards were deployed for rescue and fire fighting. One sneaking helicopter and Chetak helicopter of navy fire engines and ambulances were pressed into service. About 30 fire fighting personnel team with fire fighting suits, breathing sets and other gear each from coast guard and navy also deployed."
He also said that the ministers would continue to work from alternative places.
However, Maharashtra Leader of Opposition, Eknath Khadse, demanded an impartial probe into the incident.
He said, "We want an impartial probe from possibly fire experts from abroad. We don't think the CBI or the Crime Branch will conduct an impartial probe."
According to sources, the cause of the fire could be short circuit. They also said that many fire extinguishers in the building were not working at the time the fire broke out.
The fire started in the wiring and spread internally. Though people tried to douse it with fire extinguishers but could not. It took the fire brigade around 20 minutes for the first response.
However, officials suggested that the damage was caused only to the structure of the building.
Several people were inside the building when the fire broke out and remained trapped for hours while the rescue operation was on. However, only 12 people got injured, of which one had to be admitted in the Intensive Care Unit of the JJ Hospital.
Though reports suggested that files related to the Adarsh Housing Society scam could also be lost in the fire, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) dismissed them saying the files were safe in their possession. Meanwhile, the authorities claimed that all important files were intact.
As many as 30 fire tenders battled the blaze and rigorous efforts were made to douse the fire. Navy helicopters and anti-terrorist unit Force One were also rushed for the rescue operations. Around 3000 people were evacuated from the building.
Maharashtra Chief Secretary ordered immediate evacuation of the entire building, sources said.
Thousands of officials at Mantralaya, which houses the state Secretariat, were seen standing outside as fire fighters battled the blaze.
State Forest Minister Patang Rao said, "I am confident that all the important files will be safe and intact."
The eyewitnesses said that the fire broke out around 3 pm, following which the area was cordoned off.