An elderly couple and another senior citizen were killed while six suffered burns following an explosion in the electricity meter room of a six-storeyed Mulund apartment early on 02-05-2013. A blast around 1.40am gutted the meter room, which was located in a congested passage of the 27-year-old Vaity Apartment in Mulund (East) and badly damaged the ground and first floors. "The injured and the dead were among those who rushed downstairs. Those who remained in their houses or escaped to the building terrace survived," said Navghar senior inspector Ganesh Gaikwad.
The three senior citizens who were found dead in the first-floor passage may have died of suffocation after they failed to run out of the building. Hearing screams from the ground floor following the explosion, Vasant Pasad (60) and his wife Varsha (58), along with their son Nirav (25), daughter-in-law Awani (25) and four-month-old granddaughter Hasvi, rushed out of their third-floor flat and tried to go downstairs. Also trying to escape were fourth-floor residents Hemlataben Cheda (54), her son Miraj (25), his wife Nisha (25) and their daughter Heer (4). "Vasant and Varsha Pasad and Hemlataben tried to go down the staircase but because of the thick smoke billowing up, they stumbled and fell on each other and died due to suffocation," said building resident Yogesh Rajgor.
Other members of Cheda's family suffered severe burns and are being treated at National Burn Centre in Airoli while Pasad's family, including four-month-old Hasvi, is recuperating at Fortis hospital in Mulund.
The meters are installed in a poorly ventilated corridor. The building had only one exit point, which made it difficult to escape. A senior fire brigade officer said prima facie the fire appears to be caused by a short-circuit, but a report will be given after a detailed investigation. "The electric wiring was loose and not maintained properly, which compromised fire safety of the building," he said.
Lokesh, a third-floor resident, was playing games on his laptop late into the night when he heard the explosion and screams from the ground floor and called the police. "The loud blast led to the panic. The fire brigade doused the flames in 30 minutes. It took another hour to clear the smoke to some extent," Rajgor said. Except for two or three families, most residents of the building's 34 flats are temporarirly staying somewhere else as their building has no power supply. Pasad's sister Premila said her brother was a broker in Navi Mumbai's APMC market. "The Pasads and Chedas are from the same village in Kutch," she said.
Building residents said there have been several discussions in the past about considering redevelopment.
Gaikwad said a case of accident had been registered. "An FIR will be lodged if required, based on the report from fire officials," he said.