Mumbai: Fire engulfs office building, several killed

Indian authorities said the fire had erupted at around 12:30 a.m. local time (1900 UTC/GMT) on Friday morning in a restaurant in Mumbai’s Lower Parel area.

At least 12 people are reported to have died in the blaze, with some reports placing the death toll at 15. More than a dozen were injured and taken to hospital.

A majority of fatalities were women attending a birthday party in the restaurant. The 28-year-old woman celebrating her birthday was among the deceased, her grandfather told the Reuters news agency.

A report by newspaper the Times Of India suggested that many of the guests had tried to seek shelter in the bathroom and found themselves trapped.

Footage posted online by Indian public news broadcaster Doordarshan showed the building being engulfed by bright orange flames, as enormous dark plumes of smoke rose into the air.

Building consumed in 30 minutes

The blaze engulfed the entire four-floor building in less than 30 minutes, according to local media reports. Local fire official Balkrishna Kadam said it took eight fire engines five hours to finally extinguish the blaze.

“There was a stampede and someone pushed me,” Mumbai gynecologist Sulbha Arora tweeted. “People were running over me even as the ceiling above me was collapsing in flames. Still don’t know how I got out alive.”

Arora said she was at the restaurant when the fire erupted and “before we knew it the whole place was engulfed in a matter of seconds.”

The cause of the fire was still under investigation, although some reports suggested the blaze started when a tent-like structure made of fabric and bamboo caught fire on the roof of the building.

The Kamala Mills compound, where the fire broke out, is part of a former industrial complex that has recently been refurbished to house upmarket office blocks and restaurants.

The compound also housed several media outlets, as well as at least three national broadcasters.

dm/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)