Mumbai: A day after 14 lives were lost in a devastating blaze at a Mumbai pub, police on Saturday issued lookout notices against its two co-owners, while the civic body directed officials to ensure that safety norms are followed in restaurants and bars, thronged by people on New Year’s Eve.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has cracked down on eateries and started razing unauthorised construction. The fire brigade is trying to confirm whether flames from a fire stunt by a bartender, burning coal used for hookah, short circuit or anything else led to the fire.
According to a senior police official, lookout notices were on Saturday issued against Hitesh Sanghvi and Jigar Sanghvi, the co-owner of ‘1 Above’ pub, which is run by C Grade Hospitality. The police said they were in the process of issuing lookout notices against other accused as well.
On Friday, the police had booked the Sanghvi brothers, another co-owner Abhijeet Manka and others, under IPC sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others).
However, the pub had on Friday claimed that it had all the necessary approvals and safety norms in place. It had also blamed Mojo’s Bistro on the floor below for not having an emergency exit, leading to overcrowding of ‘1 Above’s’ escape avenues. Blaming an adjoining property for the devastating fire, the ‘1 Above’ management had said, “According to our staff, a fire began to emanate from the adjacent quarters to our premises."
However, it did not name the property from where the fire started. The massive fire that swept through the pub left 14 people dead and 21 injured. Among those killed was Khushbu Bansali, the woman who was celebrating her 29th birthday. Civic chief Ajoy Mehta, in a message to all BMC assistant municipal commissioners and deputy commissioners, said all zonal deputy commissioners and ward officers are requested to form teams comprising staff of building and factory departments, medical health officer and fire department. The teams will inspect all the restaurants in their respective wards and ensure that they are compliant to fire safety norms, the message stated.
The premises should have fire escape routes, staircases and ensure open spaces are encroachment free, it said. The Mumbai civic body had on Friday suspended five officials, including those attached to the G-South ward for dereliction of duty. There are allegations that civic authorities turned a blind eye to construction irregularities and violation of fire safety norms in the compound.
Mumbai mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar had said an inquiry had been ordered and strict action would be taken against errant officials. The civic administration has taken action against at least five eateries and restaurants following the fire. A BMC official confirmed that they have pulled down illegal roofs of two restaurants—’Skyview Café’ and ‘Social’ in Kamala Mills and encroachments of ‘Pranay’, ‘Fumes’ and ‘Sheesha Sky Lounge’ at Raghuvanshi Mills in the same locality.
Action was also taken against some restaurants in Andheri, the official said. “We have formed several teams and are collecting information about the hotels and restaurants, after getting complaints of unauthorised constructions by them. Several ward officers are also carrying out inspection and razing illegal structures," BMC spokesperson Ram Dotonde said.
A fire brigade official said they are trying to ascertain what exactly led to the fire. “We are probing if the flames during a fire stunt by a bartender at the pub came in contact with plastic sheets that covered the bamboo structure and triggered the blaze. We are also trying to find out if burning coal used for hookah at the adjacent restaurant led to the tragedy," the official said. He said the department is taking into consideration all other possibilities, including that of short circuit, the might have led to the fire, before coming to a conclusion.
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena, which is at the helm of affairs in the BMC, in its mouthpiece Saamana on Friday lamented the “lethargic attitude" of administrations across the world towards the issue of fire safety, as it mentioned the incidents of blaze at Mecca and London. The party admitted that incidents of fire in Mumbai have gone up in the last two years. The blaze at ‘1 Above’ in the early hours of Friday brought back memories of the fire that broke out in City Kinara restaurant in Kurla in October 2015, in which eight people had lost their lives. As the blaze ravaged the pub, some escaped to safety, others found their way blocked by fire and suffocating smoke. Many panicked patrons took shelter in a toilet, where they were suffocated to death.
The same central Mumbai area—a former textile mill district now dotted by swanky glass-and-concrete towers—had witnessed death of 23 people in a stampede at a railway bridge on 29 September this year.