fire tore through an upscale commercial building on Friday in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, killing at least 14 people, including women attending a birthday party at a rooftop restaurant, a hospital official said. At least 19 other people were injured.
The blaze broke out around 12:30 a.m. at the Kamala Mills Compound, a multistory building in Mumbai’s trendy Lower Parel neighborhood. The refurbished industrial building housed the offices of several news media companies and swanky restaurants.
The police said the fire started on an upper floor before quickly engulfing the building’s rooftop restaurants, 1 Above and Mojo’s Bistro, where more than 100 people had gathered, including a large group of women in their 20s and 30s attending a birthday party.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene.
“The entire rooftop was engulfed in flames before anybody had a chance to react,” Sulbha K.G. Arora, who was at one of the restaurants, told NDTV, an Indian news channel. “It was like a stampede situation. People were running all over me.”
By the time firefighters gained control of the blaze in the early morning hours on Friday, three men and eleven women had died from suffocation, a hospital official said, includinga 28-year-old woman celebrating her birthday. Many of the bodies were found near a bathroom where some of the women had fled. Witnesses said the restaurants lacked fire extinguishers, and that 1 Above had an awning made of bamboo that accelerated the fire’s spread.
The injured were brought to King Edward Memorial Hospital and Sion Hospital in Mumbai. Dr. Avinash Supe of King Edward Memorial Hospital said by telephone that patients were being treated for burn injuries, but that their conditions had stabilized.
Officials said it was unclear what had caused the blaze. Criminal complaints of culpable homicide have been filed against the owner and restaurant manager of 1 Above for failing to provide adequate emergency exits and evacuation instructions in the restaurant. Virendra Mishra, Deputy Commissioner of Police in Mumbai, said by telephone that the police have been unable to locate the men.
Safety regulations are rarely enforced in Mumbai, home to more than 18 million people, especially in older buildings, where fires and building collapses are common.
In July, the police in Mumbai arrested a man affiliated with a local political party for making illegal alterations to a five-story building that caused it to collapse and kill at least 17 people.
Devendra Fadnavis, the chief minister of Maharashtra state, where Mumbai is located, said he had ordered a full investigation into the cause of the fire, writing on Twitter that “strong action” would be taken against “erring officials.”
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, said that he was “anguished” by the fire. “My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief,” he wrote on Twitter .