Monday, November 29, 1999

Victim was ill, alone, trapped

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Mumbai, May 17 -- A 60-year-old woman was killed in a major fire at the plush 15-storied Presidency Tower, opposite the R City Mall at Ghatkopar on Sunday. The victim has been identified as Lata Duggal, a widow who lived with her son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons in flat number 1501 in the A wing of the residential complex near LBS Marg. The complex has four wings. The fire brigade said the blaze began in Duggal's flat at around 4.49 pm. Within minutes, the flat was engulfed in flames. Duggal, who was alone at the time, was trapped inside. "Duggal was dead before she could be admitted to Rajawadi hospital," said Atmaram Shinde, deputy chief fire officer. He said other residents were evacuated 15 minutes after the fire started, adding that it was controlled in an hour. Parksite police have registered it as an accidental death. "Duggal had been ill and on medication. She was alone for the last two weeks as her family - son, daughter-in-law and grandsons were in Australia on vacation," a fire officer added. "All the residents came down using the stairs as the power supply was disabled after the fire began. Senior citizens were taken out on stretchers," said a building resident. Ram Kadam, Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the MNS, lives with his family in flat number 1504 on the same floor. "Five of Kadam's family members - his brother, brother's wife and their three children - were trapped on the 15th floor. They were asked to go on the terrace because smoke had covered the entire passageway," said the chairman of the building, Nilesh Vora, a doctor and resident on the 4th floor."The fire brigade came around 25 minutes late even though the station is only minutes away. Half of the engines were not functioning properly. They did not know how to use the equipment," alleged Devanshi Rao, who lives on the 13th floor. Locals also helped. "The fire engine did not have enough water, and the firemen did not know how to switch on the water valve, which delayed the operation by half an hour," said resident Dharmil Rao (22).

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