On a fateful Thursday night, just before the year ended, massive fire broke out on the top floor of a building at Kamala Mills compound in Mumbai’s Lower Parel area left 14 people dead.
The fire, reportedly originated in a restaurant called ‘1 above’ which served hookah and alcohol and spread to Mojo Bistro, adjacent to the resto-bar. Survivors have suggested that the burning of the coal may have caused the fire, eventually getting to the makeshift roof of tarpaulin and bamboo tied together.
The fire, caused by the negligence of both authorities as well as restaurant cost 14 people their lives, and turned a celebratory evening into a nightmare.
Kamala mills is famous for its high-end restaurants and the amusement options it has to offer. As the day progressed, various politicians and activists came in to offer their condolences. One of them was Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis who entered the Kamala Mills premises in the afternoon and left after only addressing the media for a few moments, without inspecting the gutted restaurants. “Those who are guilty for this will not be spared and stringent action will be taken against them,” he said.
CM @Dev_Fadnavis at #KamalaMill fire tragedy site to take stock of the situation, expresses grief over the unfortunate incident.
Asks BMC Commissioner to complete enquiry and submit report within 15 days. pic.twitter.com/k0Tm8dMx6F
— CMO Maharashtra (@CMOMaharashtra) December 29, 2017
Out of about 36 restaurants that Kamala mills houses, some of them remained closed for the day. However, groups were still seen flocking around the compound’s establishments without a care. Managers of many restaurants that we spoke to said that while people will not stop coming, the incident may affect the upcoming plans of people planning to come here for New Year’s Eve.
Kamala Mills, apart from being popular for its nightlife, is also a commercial hub housing several offices including national television channels.
Joseph Machado, manager of Grandmama’s café in the Kamala Mills compound said that there is no unified body of the restaurant owners of the area.
“We have regular fire drills with our employees and are fully fire compliant. However, we are not aware of the status of other restaurants. We all need to come together to find a solution for this as life and property both are at risk here,” he said.
Mojo’s Bistro and 1 Above, both were rooftop restaurants, the latter allegedly functioning without a permit. Another major rooftop restaurant is Verbena that calls itself the ‘sky garden’ and has real plants inside. When asked the manager of the establishment Conrad Baptista, he said that their restaurant was fully fire-compliant. The restaurant is on level four of a building in Kamala mills, has one entrance and exit but, “We have two staircases that can help with the evacuation of people. We do conduct fire safety drills regularly, but are not aware if others do,” Baptista said.
Manager of another restaurant right opposite to London Taxi, a restaurant which was affected too but the incident, said that it is not just the responsibility of authorities, “But also of the restaurants. We as businessmen should also look at the fact that it is people’s lives at stake. While the civic body also should look carefully at the permits given, the restaurants also have to stop being careless,” he said.
Among the many politicians visiting the popular nightspot was Shiv Sena youth leader Aaditya Thackerey, who has been advocating to bring back the much-glorified nightlife of Mumbai for the longest time.
“I visited this place some time ago with my friends and did question the risks of fire hazard in the place. I have already discussed with the BMC authorities to make sure that all the restaurants here follow the rules and are safe enough for the people,” Thackerey said while addressing the media.