At least five people died and several were reported missing when a major fire sabotaged a seven-story government building in Mumbai Thursday.
More than 3,000 people were evacuated as 21 fire engines and 11 water tankers, along with the navy and coast guard personnel, could not control the blaze for about 8 to 10 hours after it broke out in the central computer server room on the fourth floor of the Maharashtra state secretariat (Mantralaya) in southern Mumbai in the afternoon.
Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said nearly 6,000 people were inside the building when the fire started. But unofficial estimates said the number could go up as high as 10,000, taking into account those who visit the office on a weekday, DNA reported.
Fire officials said the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th floors of the building, built in 1955, had been completely destroyed.
There have been reports that several important documents and records on the Adarsh Housing Society Scam, currently undergoing government probe, have been destroyed in the fire. Chavan has ordered a crime branch inquiry into the incident to find the cause and source of the fire. However, he refuted reports of foul play saying that the rumors need to be investigated before jumping to conclusions.
Chavan was not in the building when the fire broke out, but his deputy, Ajit Pawar, was inside.
Tens of thousands of files, papers, furniture, upholstery and the sea wind are believed to be the factors that may have contributed to the spreading of fire.