Spiralling black fumes and hidden orange flames. This is the view from our 9th floor apartment, about half a kilometre (as the crow flies) from the fire that broke out this afternoon. It is scary and there is this feeling of helplessness against the visible might of the fire.
Diwali time, we don’t pay much attention to explosions. But a series of loud sounds (like ones heard while dynamite is used in a quarry) brought us to look out of the window. Glass panes rattled. It was clear that the fire had been on for a while. With each burst, the fumes surged higher into the sky and the odour of burning chemicals filled the air. It was apparent that gas cylinders were bursting in Damunagar.
“I’ve never been so close to a fire!” exclaimed my son Gautam, as he took this video.
We had not heard any sirens so I called the fire brigade number, and the call centre attendant said that the fire brigades were on their way. The approach road (Akurli Road) from the Western Express Highway, into Lokhandwala, is usually very busy, and appears narrower than it actually is, because of the encroachments and the regularly chaotic driving. It would have taken the 16 fire engines that made it to the spot (from the Kandivali West Fire Station) and emergency vehicles a while to negotiate their way.
The smoke was very thick. People from close-by buildings were being evacuated. Whatsapp groups of the neighbourhood had several pictures from different angles. The devastation is huge. Lives may have been lost (official reports awaited) and hundreds have lost their homes.
In a matter of a couple of hours, the smoke decreased, though we still heard the occassional blast.
People from Damunagar were out on the streets, some with whatever they could grab and carry from their homes. Some had the presence of mind to carry their gas cylinders with them, preventing them from exploding in the fire. Volunteers were out in large numbers, serving water and lunch, assisting the police in directing the buses and traffic away from the fire site, consoling those who most likely had lost their homes. While the relief of escaping was apparent, the tears were heart-breaking to see.
The extent of the damage can be assessed after the place has cooled down. Similar to Chennai flood relief is what Damunagar needs. People in the neighbourhood are bound to be busy in the weeks ahead.
A recent message indicates that a rehabilitation camp is being set up at the BMC garden (Vilasrao Deshmukh Park) near Fountain Heights apartments. Tents are being put. Water, food, bed sheets, daris, mattresses, medicines are needed. Doctors are required. Also needed are water dispensers and mobile toilets. Volunteers are needed to help coordinate the efforts. People affected may be asked to come to this place. Rehab will take atleast two weeks. – Sabina 98671 18419