Ten days after the fire at Om Heera Panna Mall in Oshiwara, even as an injured senior citizen fights for his life in the ICU, his children are still awaiting a response to their complaint to the police. Victim Raj Israni’s son, Luv, and daughter Medha Bhatia claimed in their September 25 complaint letter to the police and BMC that the firefighting system in the mall was not working. The complaint claims that Raj, 69, was stuck inside the mall for 40 minutes and inhaled smoke in a large quantity.
The fire broke out on the afternoon of Friday, September 22, when over 500 people were inside the three-storey mall. Most of the citizens ran outside after learning about the fire. The fire brigade rescued 14 people stuck inside, most of them from the terrace and a few through a staircase. Four people were admitted to Kokilaben Ambani Hospital after inhaling large quantities of smoke. One of them was Raj. Luv filed the complaint against the secretary and owner of the mall and demanded action against them for negligence.
According to the complaint, submitted jointly by Luv and his sister Medha, Raj has taken three shops on lease on the mall’s second floor. Around 2:30 pm, some of the staff-members in their shops noticed a little smoke, but the fire alarm did not ring and no one from the management of the mall informed them about evacuation. “My father was stuck on the first floor which had maximum smoke. The sprinklers weren’t functioning,” Luv said in his complaint.
Luv told mid-day that a few firemen went inside the mall but couldn’t find his father. “I was in Chennai when the fire occurred and sent my father’s mobile’s location to the police. After some time, two policemen and seven employees went inside and found my father after searching for around 40 minutes. My father had inhaled smoke in large quantities. There was no medical facility available in the ambulance. Three firefighters were also admitted to the hospital. It means they didn’t have facilities for their own staff. My father was admitted to the hospital and doctors said there was 35 per cent carbon monoxide in his body against the average level of 0.8 per cent. My father is still struggling for his life.”
Luv added that there were past incidents of fire in the mall and it is the negligence of the mall owners, secretary and management that caused immense injury and trauma to his father and family. Sunil Gupta, manager of Om Heera Panna Mall, said that he did not want to comment over the phone. The Oshiwara police confirmed that a complaint was filed but did not give any details.
The fire brigade said they received a call about the fire around 3.10 pm on September 22 and 12 fire engines with 10 jumbo water tankers were sent to the spot. The fire brigade declared the blaze a level-2 fire which was raised to level-3 after half-an-hour. The fire was confined to electric wiring and electrical installations in 10 to 12 shops on the 2nd and 3rd floors. A few people were stranded on the top floor as heavy smoke spread across the mall. Nine people stranded on the terrace were rescued using a ladder while two were saved using an Angus ladder. The remaining three were brought down by the stairs.