Mumbai: The top three floors of Mantralaya, the Maharashtra government’s sprawling secretariat complex located at Nariman Point, were completely gutted by a fire that broke out on the fourth floor on Thursday. The fire was brought under control after the fire force fought the blaze for around three-and-a-half hours.
When the fire broke out, there were around 2,500 employees and 1,000 visitors in the building, who were evacuated through emergency exits. No casualties have been reported so far. However, six persons including one senior officer from the chief minister’s secretariat, were injured.
Fire in Mumbai: Smoke billows from the Maharashtra secretariat in Mumbai after it caught fire on Thursday. The crime branch of the Mumbai Police will conduct an inquiry into the fire, Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said. Photo: Rajanish Kakade/AP
Speaking to reporters later in the day, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said a fire drill is carried out in Mantralaya on the third Saturday of every month, “which helped us to evacuate such a large number of persons without any major untoward incident”. He also announced that an inquiry into Monday’s fire will be carried out by the crime branch of Mumbai Police. Sixty-five people were rescued with the help of a hydraulic, ladder or snorkel, from the fourth, fifth and sixth floors, said principal secretary for relief and rehabilitation, Praveen Sinh Pardeshi. Of the six persons injured, one is in a critical condition, he said.
While there was no estimate of the files destroyed by the fire, Chavan said some 27,000 of them had a digital back-up.
The Central Bureau of Investigation issued a statement in the evening saying that all files related to the Adarsh scam were in its possession and they were safe, in a bid to scotch speculation by television channels and Internet sites that the fire may have been aimed at destroying them to protect ministers and bureaucrats.
The fire broke out at around 2.45pm due to a short circuit in the office of Suresh Kankani, deputy secretary in the urban development department, and soon spread to the fifth and sixth floors. The fire was fuelled by files, wooden furniture and panelling in the offices of ministers and secretaries, and was fanned by a strong sea breeze, said a senior state government official.
The offices of chief minister Chavan, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and chief secretary Jayant Kumar Banhia were among those completely destroyed by the fire.
As the cabinet was scheduled to meet later in the evening, many ministers, including deputy chief minister Pawar, tribal welfare minister Baban Pachpaute, forest minister Patangrao Kadam, civil supplies minister Anil Deshmukh, industry minister Narayan Rane and others had been present in their offices.