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Mumbai Blaze: People Trapped in Darkness and Confusion

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A view of the Kamala Mill Compound, where a major fire broke out in a pub killing 14 persons including 11 women, and injuring 23 others in Mumbai. (Photo: IANS)

Mumbai blaze snuffed out a birthday party, get-together and New Year plans, the flames engulfed pub and restaurant, survivors and relatives of the 14 victims tells the incident amidst sorrow and pain….reports Quaid Najmi from Mumbai

A view of the Kamala Mill Compound, where a major fire broke out in a pub killing 14 persons including 11 women, and injuring 23 others in Mumbai. (Photo: IANS)

A tragic fire in a fine-dining restaurant early on morning snuffed out a lively birthday party, killed a get-together and crashed plans for a New Year outing to a hill station, survivors and relatives of the 14 victims said amidst sorrow and pain.

The blaze was first noticed in The Mojo Bistro and 1Above, both rooftop dining restaurants. The flames then engulfed the adjacent London Taxi Gastropub at the Kamala Trade House, inside the sprawling Kamala Mills Compound in Lower Parel area of south Mumbai, a prominent hub with top corporates, media houses and high-class eateries and pubs dotting the once-dingy mills’ premises.

Among the earliest who learnt of the fire was S. Mahesh, a security personnel with the Times Network, who went to go to the washroom around 12.25 a.m.

“Suddenly, I heard a loud commotion from the terraces above the third floor, people running helter-skelter, shouting, one of them screamed ‘aag lagi hai (there’s a fire)’. I ran up to see around 200 people, men, women, children trapped and desperately looking for a way out,” Mahesh said.

Since he was aware of the building layout, he started guiding the people towards the stairs and out of the building to safety, even as a temporary plastic roof crashed and blocked the main exit from the terrace.

Meanwhile, he asked his colleague Suraj Gurinder to call the police, fire brigade and alert other authorities for help, which arrived shortly afterwards and succeeded in saving many precious lives.

In The Mojo Bistro, Khusbhoo Jayesh Bhansali was ringing in her 29th year, blissfully unaware it would be her last celebrations. She perished along with her best friend Kinjal Jayesh Mehta while another friend, Neha, is in hospital.

Photo shows the fire broke out in a restaurant in Kamala Mills Compound, Lower Parel, south Mumbai. (Photo: IANS)

“She had left home at 11 p.m. for the birthday party. Minutes before the blaze, she had uploaded a video of her birthday celebrations. It’s a huge tragedy for the family and she died due to lack of oxygen and other first-aid facilities in the restaurant,” said her grieving maternal uncle Jethamal Bhotra.

Khusbhoo was brought out motionless by the rescuers, unconscious, with no apparent burn injuries, and later it transpired that, like all the other 13 victims, she had succumbed after inhaling the toxic fumes from the burning inferno.

For two US-based brothers — Vishwa Jayant Lalani, 22, and Dhariya Jayant Lalani, their New Year visit to India proved to be their last ever.

“They had come here to felicitate the oldest matriarch of the family, 70-year-old Pramila Laxmichand Kenia, who also died. It was a grand family get-together which turned into a monumental tragedy for all of us,” a weeping family member told media persons.

However, before the Lalani siblings perished, they managed to guide scores of others trapped in the fire to safety, but as fate would have it, the toxic fumes overpowered them, said eyewitnesses.

Seven cousins and two of their minor daughters had gone for dinner to The Mojo Bistro, and plan out a much-anticipated New Year outing to the hill station of Panchgani for which they were to depart on Saturday.

“It was not to be… Two of my nieces — Kavita Piyush Dharani and Tejal Bhaven Gandhi, 36 (both of Ghatkopar east), have died in the fire due to asphyxiation, while one other niece sustained some burns and the remaining six managed to escape safely,” their uncle Nimesh Shah said.

Shah said that in the darkness and confusion, they ran towards the main exit, but deadly flames were leaping out, trapping them, so they returned inside and unwittingly ran towards the men’s toilet along with over a dozen others and perished there.