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Tezaab financier dies in fire

Mumbai, Dec. 14: The financier and presenter of Madhuri Dixit’s Tezaab and Amitabh Bachchan’s Hum, Dinesh Gandhi, was among seven persons killed in the fire that gutted the 12th floor of a south Mumbai highrise last evening.

Gandhi, 65, had returned to his flat 1202 after an evening walk with his wife about 10 minutes before the fire broke out in the next-door flat 1201 around 7.15pm.

The flat had recently changed hands and the new owner was refurbishing it, residents of the 26-storey building off Kemps Corner said. Carpenters were at work and there was a lot of wood and turpentine inside.

Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh said a forensic team was investigating what started the fire.

Gandhi’s charred body was found in his flat, along with that of two domestic helps. His wife Devi got trapped in the lift, which had reached the 12th floor. Her burnt body as well as that of the liftman were found in the elevator.

The charred bodies of the Gandhis were identified by the jewellery they were wearing.

A diamond merchant, Gandhi had financed the N. Chandra-directed Tezaab, which catapulted Madhuri Dixit to superstardom in 1988. He was also associated with films like Sahib, Pannah, Armaan and Tirangaa.

Several prominent businessmen and corporate bosses stay in Mont Blanc. The highrise has 52 flats — 3BHK and 4 BHK — with two on each floor.

South Mumbai MP Milind Deora’s uncle Ramu Deora lives on the 25th floor. “My parents remained inside the flat and were safe,” Rajeev Deora, Milind’s cousin, who lives with his parents but was not home at the time of the fire, told reporters.

A domestic help from Odisha, Chittaranjan Das, 40, who worked with a family living on the 17th floor, was found dead on the staircase on the 19th floor. His friend Prafulla said Das probably suffocated as he was trying to escape to the terrace. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Another man identified as Sumitra Sejwal, 42, was found dead on the 26th floor.

Among seven persons injured were four firemen and two fire officers who suffered 14 per cent to 27 per cent burns.

“I had made three teams. This group was injured when an explosion took place when they were battling the fire on the 12th floor. They were rushed to the hospital, while another team replaced them,” said deputy fire chief Prabhat Rahangdale, a veteran who also played a key role in the rescue operations at the Taj and Trident hotels during the 26/11 terror attacks as well as the submarine fire at the naval docks earlier this year.

“While one team kept the water supply and other equipment going, the second team was doing firefighting. The third team was doing a search and rescue operation. We managed to rescue five persons alive from the flat 1201 where the fire originated. The fire safety equipment was installed in the building, and it helped us get two water lines going,” an exhausted Rahangdale said this evening.

The firefighters contained the blaze to the 12th floor and rescued 25 to 30 people from the floors above, he said.

The fire was brought under control around 11pm and cooling operations went on till early morning.

A senior fire official who asked not to be named said: “Fires in such tall highrises is definitely a future challenge for us. A survey showed there are 107 highrises in Mumbai and a good percentage of them higher than 25 storeys. Our tallest ladder can reach only up to the 17th floor. Our proposal for acquiring ladders that can reach up to the 25th floor is pending before the government.”