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Fire and fury at Mumbai mill

Last updated on: January 20, 2010 17:13 IST

Fire and its fury

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The sun is a tiny speck in the mid-day sky. Raging below is a fire in Mumbai's Gold Mohur Mills, a defunct cloth mill in the Dadar East district of Central Mumbai.

Fire engines are already making their way to the venue, as are curious onlookers who have climbed the roofs of nearby buildings.

At first there is just one hose that is in full working condition. It's already an hour since the fire was first noticed and reported. Three other hoses lie on the ground, useless without any water to pump through them.

Text: Abhishek Mande

 


Image: Fire raging at Gold Mohur Mills in Dadar East
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Fire and its fury

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Chaos prevails as locals try to make sense of the situation. Someone tells the firemen there are gas cylinders lying in the open.

Ramesh Solanki, who identifies himself as a member of the Mill's union, sends for some help. Within minutes a few young men rush to the spot to lend a hand. Some of the cylinders are moved out.

The trouble however is far from over. A bigger pile of larger cylinders lies close to the fire, which is now getting even stronger.

Within the compound is a Tata Power sub-station. Solanki tells me that there are barrels of oil lying close to the substation. Trouble is far from over and the fire is not even remotely under control.


Image: Firemen try to douse the flames at Gold Mohur Mills on Wednesday
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Fire and its fury

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The second hose splutters to life. A bunch of firemen inch forward hoping to take on the major fire that threatens to blow up the substation and everything around.

This is the part of the mills that Solanki mentioned about -- containing oil barrels.

There isn't enough water pressure in the hose for them to venture anywhere close to the raging inferno.


Image: Gold Mohur Mills on fire on Wednesday
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Fire and its fury

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Another fire engine is brought in. There is a pond in the backyard whose water will need to be pumped out. More people join in and lend a hand. To get to the pond you have to pass through a narrow lane. Little fires have already started here.

A man who simply identifies himself as a social worker ushers me to the back of the mill. Another fireman takes me to a spot and asks me to shoot some pictures of these fires. He tells me that this could not have been an accident.

"Someone has purposely set this place on fire. Look at these spots," he says, somewhat infuriated as he points to a yard next to a closed canteen.

"There is no way the fire could have spread here!"


Image: Local men help with a water hose to douse the flames
Photographs: Abhishek Mande
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Fire and its fury

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Conspiracy theories start floating around. The initial panic has given way to anger.

Gold Mohur Mills has been closed for a while now and workers claim that the owner has staged this fire.

Meanwhile, Mumbai's hyperactive television crews have assembled. Some are interviewing workers, others taking shots of the fire. Suddenly you hear a huge rumbling sound. A part of the roof has crumbled.

Outside, an old worker watches with disbelief. Perhaps something else has shattered too.


Image: A fireman on duty at Gold Mohur Mills, Mumbai

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