At least 14 people have been killed when a massive fire broke out at a popular four-storey shopping complex in India's financial capital of Mumbai in Maharashtra state.
Starting at a roof-top restaurant in the early hours of Friday (29 December), the fire spread through the top floor of the shopping complex. 11 women were among the dead, who were celebrating a birthday party at the restaurant. The woman celebrating her birthday was also killed in the blaze.
There was hardly any escape route for the revellers as false ceiling made of dry bamboo and tarpaulin sheets helped the fire to spread faster. Most victims died due to asphyxiation and not burns. Many others were reported injured in the incident.
Charges, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, have already been registered against owners of the restaurant as the government has promised to take severe action if there was any violation in the construction of the building as is being suspected as of now. Reportedly, there was an evacuation procedure in place and fire extinguishers were also available at the building.
It is still unclear what caused the tragedy. Local reports say the entire restaurant, 1 Above Rooftop, where the fire had initially emerged, was engulfed within minutes.
Kamala Mills, a 37-acre compound, was formerly an industrial area in central Mumbai's locality known as Lower Parel. It has gradually grown popular among party-growers in recent years after several upscale restaurants and bars were set up.
Images from the scene show the complex's fragile structure was rapidly brought down by the inferno even as firefighters struggled to douse the fire. Plumes of smoke and raging flames could be seen from far from the site. Some news channels which operate from the compound were forced to stop their broadcast owing to the fire.
"Disturbing to know about the loss of lives in unfortunate Kamala Mills fire incident in Mumbai. My thoughts are with the families who lost their loved ones and prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured. Directed the BMC [Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, civic body] Commissioner to conduct an in-depth inquiry," said Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter: "Anguished by the fire in Mumbai. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief. I pray that those injured recover quickly."