6 killed, several injured in Mahim slum blaze

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Six people were killed and scores injured in a major fire at a Mahim slum early on Friday morning, police said. Eight persons suffered serious burn injuries and are admitted to Bhabha Hospital in Bandra.

The fire broke out in Naya Nagar slums near S L Raheja Hospital. It raged for at least two hours, gutting nearly 60 tenements. The spot where the fire broke out is on a bridge on Mahim-Sion Link Road.

Fire brigade said the blaze was reported at 5.30 am and extinguished by 7.30 am. Residents, however, claimed that it started at 4.30 am and the fire brigade reached the spot over an hour later. "My brother rushed to Shahu Nagar Fire Station, but the officers were unresponsive and arrived only after the houses had been burnt. The six people could have been saved had they arrived on time," said Abdul Qadir Shaikh (25), a resident.

"We pulled six bodies out. All of them were so badly charred that we couldn't identify their sex. We have initiated an inquiry into the fire. We cannot ascertain the cause of the fire so soon," said chief fire officer Suhas Joshi.

Mayor Sunil Prabhu visited the injured later in the day.

Police said Naya Nagar is home to nearly 25,000 people. The slum spills onto Senapati Bapat Marg under the bridge. Several residents run small businesses from their tenements, many of which have one or two storeys. A garage, a garment manufacturing unit and metal-works unit were among the structures gutted.

Rescue efforts were initially hampered due to narrow lanes until the fire brigade went up the bridge.

Residents said the fire broke out due to a short circuit in a meter room and spread to other rooms. Most found it difficult to escape through the narrow alleys.

Four cars in a garage were reduced to a shell. Residents said the fire spread because of cylinders inside the garage. "The sound of the first cylinder exploding woke me up. I saw the whole place was burning, then three other cylinders burst in quick succession and the fire spread to other homes," said Jahangir Shaikh Akhtar Ali, whose home was gutted.

Police have also initiated an inquiry. "We are investigating other angles, including foul play," said Dhananjay Kulkarni, DCP, Zone V.

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