History repeats as fire engulfs City Centre, Nagpada

The fire outbreak at City Centre, Nagpada, felt like deja vu to its shop owners. The mall has about 950 shops, most from Crawford Market after a fire erupted and damaged them a decade ago. The fire has led to a loss of goods and property worth hundreds of crores.

Ganesh Purohit owned two mobile accessories shops in the mall. Thursday night’s fire claimed both his shops. "My shops were damaged at the Crawford Market fire 10 years back. It feels like history has repeated itself again," Purohit told the Free Press Journal.

These shops were already reeling from losses due to the lockdown. "After a drought in our business for seven months, we hoped that situation would improve before Diwali. However, things have only gone from bad to worse," said Amin Farooq, who worked at a shop.

Almost 70 per cent of the mall is damaged, claim shop owners. “We won't be able to resume our business till the mall gets renovated. We don't know how we will feed our families," said Darsheel Ahmed, a shop manager.

Most shopkeepers have to pay rent between Rs 25,000 and Rs 2,00,000, depending on the size of the shop. "I had to borrow money to pay the rent of my shop, as I had exhausted all my savings during the lockdown. Now, considering the loss of property and goods, I don’t know how we will survive this year," said Biju Patet, another shop owner.

A minor fire broke out at the mall a few years back. The civic body was requested to check the structure, but to no avail, claim shop owners. Fire brigade officials had evacuated the adjacent 55 storeyed Orchid Enclave towers as a precautionary measure. Nearly 3,500 people had to leave their homes on the intervening night of Thursday and Friday.

While some went to stay with their friends and relatives, some preferred to stay at nearby hotels. "One of our relatives lives nearby. However, the society won't allow us to enter because of COVID-19 restrictions. We had no other option but to stay at a hotel," said Roshan Desai, 62, who moved to a local hotel with his wife on Friday afternoon.

The residents of the building also informed that they were unable to take their belongings. The power supply to some of the flats was cut off. "Our phone battery got drained out. My wife and I have been waiting outside since 2 am. Now, we will be moving to our friend's place. Seeing the intensity of the flame, I don't know if we will soon be able to return to our home," said Dinesh Mohite, 33, another resident.

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