The preliminary investigation report conducted by the Mumbai fire brigade into the deadly inferno that engulfed two posh restaurants at Kamala Mills Compound concluded that the fire started from a hookah at Mojo’s Bistro and then spread to 1Above. The fire took place on 29 December last year and claimed 14 lives.
The report stated that although a watchman had guided the trapped people towards the passageway to escape from the raging flames, it turned out to be blocked, forcing those escaping to seek refuge in a nearby toilet. it is not yet known which of the two restaurants blocked the passageway.
The report which has been completed within a week of the fire was done by four senior fire officers. Both the restaurants were running illegal hookah bars, the report said.
The report has the account of 14 eyewitnesses.
According to the report, although a few people suspected danger and did not take refuge in the toilet, the rest who went in died due to asphyxiation. Guests at the Mojo’s Bistro could escape as it was not packed and was open in the top while those at 1Above, which was packed at that time, weren’t so fortunate.
The inflammable tarpaulin and bamboo canopy only made the matter worse as the fire spread rapidly.
The 15-page report claimed that the fire department is also in possession of video evidence of the sequence of events.
The report was submitted to BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta.
Talking to reporter Mehta said, “In the report from the fire department that I received today, there are three important things — the start location of the fire, the cause of the fire and how it spread. The fire started at Mojo’s Bistro and it began from a hookah. It spread because of the illegal tarpaulin and bamboo frame above and also because of other flammable substances. The fire escape route was blocked because of which people could not escape. I will complete my investigation in two weeks and hand over the final report to the state government.”
“From the moment I started the investigation, I am under tremendous pressure from prominent individuals not to act against 18 to 20 hotels and pubs that are running illegally,” the BMC commissioner said. While Mehta declined to name any of them, he stated that he will take ‘stern action’ against them.
Following the fire, the 1Above management had on 30 December released a statement claiming that the fire had started at Mojo’s Bistro.
We at 1Above deeply regret and extend our heartfelt condolences to the injured and deceased, and also offer our full support to all afflicted.
1Above has all it’s fire safety regulations, licenses, procedures and norms in place – we have been able to help save many lives thanks to our fire safety protocols and are grateful to our staff for their presence of mind and help in this time of crisis. To preempt any emergency, 1Above conducts a quarterly fire safety and crisis management training. This was also conducted recently for this quarter as per our vigilant practice for all our staff and managers. There are over 10 fire extinguishers and adequate fire safety signatures in the premises as is required by the authorities. As part of the same fire safety protocol, the fire exit dedicated to 1Above was maintained well as per rules and regulations – a reason why we were able to evacuate persons speedily.
We would also like to clearly state that there were NO gas cylinders kept anywhere near our rooftop premises. The gas bank is maintained on the ground floor as per requirement. As soon as the fire was noticed, the gas was turned off to avoid any further damage.
The facts of the incident, as seen by our staff, indicate a rising fire that began to emanate from the adjoining quarters to 1Above. We presume the unmanageable nature at the preliminary source of the fire resulted in it’s escalation to our property where all owners, staff and restaurant management from 1 Above engaged immediately in clearing the crowd from the establishment. There was no escape from Mojo’s Bistro therefore we believe that all their guests were told go through the premises of 1Above as we have an emergency exit. Hence patrons from Mojo’s Bistro also began to rush into our premises as we helped the Fire Brigade that had arrived at the scene to evacuate guests. All our premises are well inspected and we have the requisite permissions for the same.
Our management has also been active at Kamala Mills till wee hours of the morning helping customers from all establishments – whether it be our own or the ones nearby – with water, fire protection and travel to their homes and nearby hospitals. Our owners and staff members have personally assisted the fire brigade in their rescue operations and will continue to extend as much support as required for the same. We also offer full cooperation to all government authorities and concerned parties for any investigation that may be necessary.
We wish all recover safely and our prayers are steady with those who have lost someone this in unexpected tragedy.