Huge fire at Maharashtra secretariat

A mysterious fire broke out at the headquarters of the Maharashtra government here on Thursday.


Nithin Belle

Published: Sat 23 Jun 2012, 12:16 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 11:45 AM

The fire destroyed not just the offices of the chief minister, the deputy chief minister and top bureaucrats, but also crucial documents relating to several scams.

While nearly 5,000 people, including a dozen ministers, hundreds of bureaucrats and government officials, besides several visitors were present within the cavernous confines of secretariat, the government headquarters, miraculously less than a score of people were injured.

The fire, which broke out at 2.40pm, exposed the gross negligence on the part of the government in maintaining its own buildings. The complex lacks fire alarms, fire-fighting equipment and even adequate water supply. The fire fighters had a tough time tackling the flames in view of the low water pressure. Adding to the mystery, it took the fire brigade, which has a station just a few hundred metres from secretariat, more than 30 minutes to reach the complex and start battling the inferno.

Shockingly, though the fire broke out in a minister’s room on the fourth floor, it spread rapidly, engulfing not just the entire floor, but spreading through the fifth and sixth floors and even destroying the government’s disaster management centre and the telecommunications hub and control room on the seventh floor.

The inferno then spread to the neighbouring annexe building, virtually destroying it. The fire brigade took more than five hours to bring the raging inferno under control. The Indian Navy also deployed some helicopters to survey the scene and help rescue people from the terrace of the building.

Opposition parties immediately sensed something fishy in the fire and wondered whether crucial documents relating to the Adarsh housing scam — in which three former chief ministers and several top bureaucrats are involved — were destroyed. But the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the scam, claimed that all crucial files relating to the scam were in its custody.

The fire also destroyed the urban development department, located on the fourth floor, along with the offices of several ministries. The offices of chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, on the sixth floor, and of the chief secretary on the fifth floor were also gutted. Chavan was not in secretariat when the fire broke out, though Pawar and 10 other ministers were in their offices.

Patangrao Kadam, the state rehabilitation minister, told reporters that the government had ruled out sabotage. He said all government offices would be temporarily shifted to the state legislature complex located outside secretariat from Friday.

There was chaos in south Mumbai after the fire broke out at secretariat in the afternoon. Smoke billowed out from the massive complex, and could be seen from several kilometres away. There were massive traffic snarls as the authorities blocked all approach roads to secretariat.

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