At least 14 people were killed and over a dozen injured after a fire broke out at a building at Mumbai’s Kamala Mills compound in Lower Parel locality on Thursday night. The injured are being treated at KEM hospital and Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General hospital in Sion area. At least eight fire engines and five water tankers were called in to douse the blaze.

The fire first broke out at 1 Above restaurant at midnight and then spread to other eateries – Mojo’s Bistro and London Taxi Gastropub. The blaze soon spread to the next building which houses the offices of Times Network – including Times Now, Mirror Now, ET Now and Zoom TV – and TV9 Marathi. The TV channels went off-air as their transmission dishes were affected.

“Times Network is deeply saddened by the horrific fire tragedy at Mumbai’s Kamala Mills, where the Network’s office is located,” the company said in a statement. “Our deepest condolences and prayers to the families, of those killed and injured in the accident. The magnitude of the fire was huge, disrupting our operations temporarily. All our employees were evacuated safely.”

‘Victims died of suffocation’

Dr Harish Pathak from KEM Hospital’s autopsy department said most of the victims had died of suffocation. A 28-year-old woman celebrating her birthday at the rooftop restaurant was among the 14 who died in the fire, her grandfather told Reuters. Among the deceased, 11 were women, while three were men.

Dr Rajesh Dhere told News18 that if the victims were not confined to a room without any ventilation, they could have been alive. “There were only minor abrasions on their bodies and people died due to asphyxia,” he said.

FIR registered

A case of culpable homicide has been registered against the restaurant where the fire first broke out, ANI reported. Brihanmumbai Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta reached the site after visiting the victims in KEM hospital.

Though the officials said the cause of the fire was unknown, a short circuit at the restaurant is suspected. “We have started our investigation... It is only after investigation that we will be able to say anything,” senior police officer S Jay Kumar told NDTV.

Meanwhile, Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant said a judicial investigation should be launched into the incident. “It is not just the BMC, but the fire department, the police and all others who give permission, are responsible. I will try to raise it in Parliament,” Sawant said, according to News18.

Activist Mangesh Kalaskar said he had made several complaints regarding illegal structures in Kamala Mills premises, but the BMC had said that there was nothing wrong, ANI reported.

The BMC will start inspection of all restaurants in Kamala Mills compound, and other nearby mill compounds starting Friday, the Hindustan Times reported. Assistant Commissioner Prashant Sapkale said, “Even the slightest of unauthorised construction will be demolished. BMC is including fire brigade officials in this team, so that inspection is done from fire safety point of view.”

Condolences pour in

President Ram Nath Kovind said, “Disturbing news about the fire in Mumbai. Condolences to the bereaved families and wishing the injured an early recovery. Commend the valiant efforts of fire-fighters and those in rescue ops.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was anguished by the fire. “My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief. I pray that those injured recover quickly,” he said.

“Disturbing to know about the loss of lives in unfortunate Kamala Mills fire incident in Mumbai,” Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Twitter. “My thoughts are with the families who lost their loved ones and prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured.”

The chief minister said he had asked BMC Commissioner Mehta to take strong action against erring officials.