By ASHOK SHARMA
NEW DELHI (AP) — Flames shot into the nighttime sky early Friday as a fire engulfed an upscale rooftop restaurant in the Indian city of Mumbai, killing 15 people and sending others fleeing for their lives, fire officials said.
The 1 a.m. fire spread quickly from the restaurant through the four-story building, said Mumbai fire service official Balkrishna Kadam. Eight fire engines battled the blaze for more than five hours, he said.
Video showed a blazing fire atop a building, and then a roof-like shelter collapsing. A bamboo ceiling burned quickly and collapsed as people tried to escape, the TimesNow TV news channel said.
“There was a stampede and someone pushed me,” Sulbha Arora Mumbai, a Mumbai gynecologist, tweeted. “People were running over me even as the ceiling above me was collapsing in flames. Still don’t know how I got out alive.”
The building is located in Kamala Mills, a sprawling former textile compound that has been redeveloped with upscale restaurants and offices and has become a popular nightspot in Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital.
Several TV news channels operating from the compound had to shut down some of their broadcasts, reportedly due to equipment damage.
“It was not only difficult but impossible to move out the front door, so we tried to move out our other emergency exit, even though fire balls were falling down,” said Sharad Jadhav, a producer for TV-9. “Somehow I managed to get everybody out of the place one by one, and then I came out, and when we came out the roof of the restaurant came crashing down.”
More than 50 people were brought to KEM hospital, of whom 12 were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, said Avinash Supe, a doctor at the hospital.
Supe said the deaths were caused by both burns and suffocation.
Fire officials said 14 of the victims had been identified, and there was one unidentified body. The dead included 11 women, they said.
Babu Lal, who was celebrating his granddaughter’s birthday at the restaurant, told the TimesNow channel that his granddaughter died in the fire.
Police filed a case of culpable homicide against the owners and the manager of the restaurant. No arrests have been made.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Anguished by the fire in Mumbai. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief. I pray that those injured recover quickly.”
Associated Press videojournalist Manish Mehta in Mumbai contributed to this report.