A major fire today broke out at ‘Mantralaya’, the Maharashtra state secretariat complex that houses offices of the chief minister, key ministers and top officials.
Close to two hours after it was first noticed near the cabin of Tribal Welfare Minister Babanrao Pachpute on the fourth floor, the fire continued to rage till evening even as fire fighters battled the leaping flames.
Several people are trapped on the upper floors and terrace, prompting authorities to press into service contingents of the elite commandos of Force One and city police’s Quick Response Teams. Two teams from the naval dockyard were also rushed.
Panic gripped the sprawling building, the seat of state administration, after the fire, first noticed around 2.45 pm, spread swiftly to fifth, sixth and seventh floors. Towering plumes of blinding smoke soon engulfed the building making it difficult for the fire brigade to evacuate the stranded.
According to sources, nearly 5,000 people vacated the building within 20 minutes of the fire breaking out. Fire brigade personnel with huge hydraulic ladders were seen bringing down those trapped. Choking in thick black smoke, several people were seen standing precariously on the parapet and balconies, waiting to be rescued. Many could be seen rappelling down the ropes and drain pipes in a desperate attempt to escape.