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Sunday, November 27, 2011

‘Power not cut even after alarm was raised’

    The blaze that engulfed Manish and Sara-Sahara markets early Saturday has thrown up many questions, and local traders and businessmen say that it was sabotage. The first discrepancy is the time factor: While fire officials and later the BMC disaster management cell say that they got the alarm only at 3.43 am, eyewitnesses put the time of fire at anywhere between 2.30am and 3am. Three hours after the fire fighters had arrived at the scene, the fire spread to Manish Market, located across a 10-ft lane, and is not connected to Sara-Sahara. Both the chief minister and home minister have called for a probe. 
    Locals alleged that the power supply was not cut off immediately after the structures caught fire. Fire officials declined to confirm the cause without a preliminary enquiry, but shopkeepers say that arson cannot be ruled out. "Suddenly, a small portion of Manish Market caught fire, and before we knew it, the blaze engulfed the building," said an eyewitness. 
    Police officials speculated that the fire may have started due to a short circuit in Sara-Sahara Market. 

    The police have not ruled out foul play. "This area is full of electronics, so a short circuit seems to be the most likely explanation. The presence of thousands of cables and wires would have only added to the pace at which the fire spread. This will be one of the prime angles that we shall investigate," said a senior police official of South region. Other theories include a possible cylinder blast, but fire officials say that early evidence does not point to this. 
    Eye-witnesses said that in the early hours of the blaze only two engines arrived at the spot. Chief fire officer, H N Muzawar said that the narrow lanes in the congested area made it impossible for more than four engines to operate inside. 

BEST 'unaware' of fire 

    When contacted at 10.45pm on Saturday, BEST PRO N A Walawalkar said that he was unaware of any blaze at the markets. One of the reasons the shopkeepers gave for why the fire spread was that the electricity was not shut off. BEST supplies electricity to the whole of south Mumbai, including the accident areas. A BEST security officer said that he would check, but switched off his phone soon after.


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