Mumbai: A major fire broke out in the Maharashtra secretariat, known as the Mantralaya at 2:30 pm today. The fire began in the fourth floor, among the files of the urban development department and then spread to the other floors.
The Chief Minister of Maharastra was also in the building at the time, holding a meeting. The fire is believed to have begun in the cabin of another minister, who evacuated once the fire was detected.
Ambulances and fire tenders rushed to the spot and began to evacuate those trapped by the flames. The smoke from the blaze on the fourth floor engulfed two upper floors of the building as well.
No casualties have been reported so far as the building was evacuated soon after fire was noticed although complete evacuaton is assumed, but not assured. There still may be some people trapped by the blaze.
Thousands of officials at Mantralaya, which houses the state Secretariat, were seen standing outside as fire fighters battled the blaze, which was suspected to have been caused by a short-circuit.
Contingents of the state's elite commando squad Force One and city police's Quick Response Team arrived at the spot amid reports that some people were still trapped on the terrace of the Mantralaya.
"The Force One and QRTs are assisting the fire brigade teams in carrying out rescue operations," a police official said.The fire department later gave a statement that considered the evacuation complete and were tackling the fire.
Huge billowing smoke and large flames could be seen from the outside of the building, with entire rooms appearing to be engulfed. It appears the fire is proving very difficult to bring under control. The fire originally was contained to one side and a few windows but soon could be seen on the opposite side of the building as well.
The section where the fire began is reportedly packed with documents and files, most of which hare highly flammable. The fire is rapidly moving across floors owing to the narrow corridors, which are helping the fire spread.
The offices of the Chief Minister have also reportedly gutted along with scores of other minister offices.
The question on most minds is the fate of the files inside the Mantralaya, some of which are sensitive, some are irreplaceable and most are involved in the running of the state.
Also 'trapped' inside the burning building are files on the Adarsh Housing Society scam as well.
Mantralaya is the administrative headquarters of the state government of Maharashtra in South Mumbai. It was built in 1955.
The Mantralaya has six floors and contains the most of the departments of state government in this building.
The Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister sit on the sixth floor.
The Chief Secretary sits on the fifth floor.
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Video: Major Fire in Mantralaya, Mumbai TV9 Exclusive