Mantralaya blaze: Chavan says fire controlled, orders probe (Lead)

June 21st, 2012 - 10:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, June 20 (IANS) Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan Thursday said that the massive fire that gutted most of the top four floors of the Mantralaya or the state secretariat was now under control. He also ordered a probe by the Crime Branch into the incident.

Chavan, who held an emergency meeting in evening, discussed the situation with other ministers and planned alternative arrangements till the situation was normal at the state government’s administrative headquarters.

“An inquiry has been ordered. Crime Branch will start inquiry into the matter,” Chavan told reporters after the meeting.

Besides Chavan, the meeting was attended by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, top ministers, bureaucrats, police and civic officials, at multi-storied New Administrative Building, which is opposite the seven-storied Mantralaya.

Earlier, Relief and Rehabilitation Secretary Pravin Pardeshi had said that 65 people trapped on the fifth and sixth floor have been evacuated by the fire-fighters.

“There are no more people inside. Fire fighters are combing the place again to check if anyone has been trapped inside,” he said.

Sixteen people were injured in the fire. However, all are stable barring one, Chavan told reporters.

Asked about the loss of files, specially those relating to the Adarsh scam, Chavan said that all urban development ministry files have been scanned and so there was no loss.

“There are around 3.18 crore pages scanned as back up,” he said.

Stating that fire fighters will continue to work throughout the night, Chavan said that the fire is in control now. “It started on fourth floor from room no 411,” he said.

Meanwhile, the ministers will continue to work from alternative places in the new building and the state government guest house.

“A first-hand assessment of the situation arising out of the fire, structural audit and audit of financial losses will start tomorrow (Friday). The Mantralaya will remain closed for visitors and outsiders for the time being,” Chavan said.

As many as 21 fire tenders battled the blaze while Navy helicopters and anti-terrorist unit Force One were also rushed for the rescue operations, he said.

The blaze, which badly gutted the three top floors, has virtually paralysed the functioning of several top political heads and bureaucrats of key departments.

They include the chief minister, deputy chief minister, revenue, tribal welfare, forests, urban development and housing, education, besides the offices of the state chief secretary, the State Disaster Management Cell and the chief minister’s office.

A main control tower atop the Mantralaya which is linked to all the district headquarters in the state has also been damaged and rendered non-functional in the blaze, besides furniture and fittings, computers, original files and documents of various departments pertaining to important official decisions.

It was not clear when the fire brigade authorities will complete its investigations into the fire and hand over the building back to the state government for repairs, renovation and making it functional again.

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