Mumbai, June 21 (IBNS): One of the most secured buildings of Mumbai, the imposing state secretariat, known as Mantralaya, was up in flames on Thursday afternoon, killing at least three people and triggering a massive evacuation, including of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
At least 16 people were also injured while nearly 3000 people had to rush out of the building or be evacuated as Navy choppers hovered in the sky blackened by a thick plume of black smoke billowing out of the Mantralaya where the fire first started in the fourth floor.
A Mumbai Police official told IBNS late in the night that three bodies were recovered from the fifth floor of the building.
Mumbai has not witnessed such a big fire in recent times and that too in the state secretariat with leaping flames singing the state secretariat building, known as Mantralaya, in the southern part of the city on Thursday afternoon.
The offices of the chief minister (sixth floor) and the deputy chief minister were gutted.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said the crime branch of Mumbai Police will probe the fire.
Chauhan said all government files are safe since they were all scanned for back up. He ruled out the fear that the files of the Adarsh Housing Society, that is mired in a scam, were destroyed.
He said all urban development ministry files are safe and scanned.
"Both Navy and coast guards were engaged in fire fighting and rescue," said Chavan.
"Fire fighting will continue through the night," said Chavan.
Traffic in south Mumbai was thrown haywire as flames leaped out of the fourth floor of the key government building amid a huge evacuation effort by the various departments.
From fourth floor the fire spread to sixth floor, the office of the chief minister. Chavan had to be evacuated since he was in the building when the fire started at 2-45 pm.
While fire fighting was on till late in the night after the fury of the blaze was controlled, injured were rushed to hospital.
More than 25 fire engines fought to control the blaze.
Indian Navy commandos also rushed to the spot to rescue the people trapped inside the building. Naval choppers were engaged in rescue operation.
At least 65 people, who were trapped inside the building, were rescued by the fire fighters while thousands rush out of the state's administrative hub.
Combing operation were being undertaken in the departments that were affected by the fire, an official said.
According to reports, the fire was first reported in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) minister Babanrao Pachpute's office in the fourth floor in the building and then spread to the sixth floor of the building that houses the office of Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
The office of the Deputy Chief Minister was also damaged.
The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained so far, but it is reportedly a short circuit.
The entire area has been cordoned off by the police to keep the situation under control.
All roads connecting the secretariat with Flora Fountain and Churchgate have been blocked.
The JJ Flyover near the building has also been closed for public.