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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fire ‘Jumps’ Across Lane From Sara Sahara Market To Manish Market


    Amajor fire not only razed Sara-Sahara market next to MRA Marg police station in south Mumbai early Saturday, but also managed to "jump" 25 feet across a narrow street to Manish Market—famous for its gadgets and toys— gutting 700-odd authorized and illegal shops within the building. 

    After the Garib Nagar fire in March, this is the second brigade call, the highest alarm, to be given this year. Initial estimates peg the losses around Rs 100 crore, with the fire destroying a total of 1,500-odd shops and shanties in the area. The official statement released by the fire department stated that 26 fire engines 13 tankers, which had to be refilled more than 100 times, had to be roped in. Ten BMC bulldozers were called in to break down shuttered stores as individual fires were raging inside them. 
    Even the time when the fire started is uncertain; while the fire brigade says it got the call only at 3.43am, eye-witnesses told TOI that the fire at Sara-Sahara started between 2.30am and 3.00am. Between 3.30am and 6am, the fire gutted Yara shopping complex, Munim compound and Green House building, which are adjacent to Sara-Sahara. As fire officials were struggling to control the blaze, at 6.30 am, shopkeepers across the street at Manish Market, which is in not connected to Sara-Sahara, reported that flames had spread to a small portion of the complex. 
    The fire brigade declared a 
brigade call at 6.50am and deployed more fire engines and tankers. The engines from the Mumbai fire brigade were not enough to bring the blaze under control, and tankers had to be called in from not only Navi Mumbai and Thane, but also from Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and BARC. 
    The fire at Manish Market began to spread rapidly, and within an hour, engulfed the complex. According to officials, the fire spread to Manish Market because the "flames threw up" highly combustible material like mobile batteries and cable wires to the other side of the road where Manish Market is located. Wires from the air-conditioning units that dot the façade of the structure caught fire, and the blaze gained in intensity when the flames came in contact with combustible goods like perfumes and electronic gadgets. 
    Around 1pm, fire officials shifted their focus to Manish Market, even as cooling operations continued at Sara-Sahara. However, around 4pm, cooling operation at Sara-Sahara met with a snag as the remaining structure erupted into flames. It took two hours to control the blaze, but intermittent flareups continued through the night. At the time of going to press, fire officials were still fighting the blaze. 
    Chief fire officer H N Muzawar said "We found it difficult to navigate through the market. The structures should have had underground water reserves, which weren't there, making the operation difficult." 
    "The fire will be investigated by the BMC and our officers jointly. We shall submit a report to the government," said additional commissioner of police (South region), Naval Bajaj. Flood lights were put by the evening to help fire fighters. Additional municipal commissioner Mohan Adtani said, "Due to the presence of inflammable items, the operation will take a while." 

BMC office saved from blaze 
Dousing the fire at Manish Market was top priority for the BMC disaster management cell on Saturday. They soon realized that they had another headache – BMC's Palton Road office adjacent to Manish Market. The Palton Road office houses several important papers–from octroi to property papers as well as octroi penalty collection. Worried the building might catch fire, BMC officers broke the separating wall and utilized around 2 lakh litres of water, stored under the BMC property, for cooling the office walls. The officers also started moving the papers to a secured location but realized it was mammoth task.–Shawan Sen

SMOKE, FIRE, HOPE AND PRAYERS: (Clockwise from top) Fire engines in the lane between Sara-Sahar and Manish Market; firemen fighting the blaze on one side of Manish Market; an onlooker watches as the blaze continues through the night; a fire official breaks through the windows of Manish Market building to allow ventilation; shopkeepers look on as their livelihoods go up in smoke. (Bottom left to right) A man saves a copy of the Holy Quran from the inferno in Manish Market; two men pray outside Manish Market; shopkeepers wait anxiously outside Gulshan-e-Iran restaurant; a family looks down at the smoke-covered scene from the JJ flyover


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