Thousands evacuated as fire breaks out at Mumbai cultural show

Fanned by high winds, the fire quickly spread, licking the sides of a scaffolding rig and lighting up the night sky at a cultural event on Sunday. The inferno was believed to have been caused by an electrical short circuit and 14 fire engines and 10
Fanned by high winds, the fire quickly spread, licking the sides of a scaffolding rig and lighting up the night sky at a cultural event on Sunday. The inferno was believed to have been caused by an electrical short circuit and 14 fire engines and 10 water tankers took just over an hour to bring it under control.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MUMBAI • Bollywood actors Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan were among those evacuated after a huge fire engulfed the stage of a cultural event in Mumbai.

Fire broke out at the front of the outdoor stage on Chowpatty Beach on Sunday during a performance by dancers, who at first seemed unaware of the inferno developing beneath them. Members of the audience shouted and waved to alert them to the danger.

Fanned by high winds, it quickly spread, licking the sides of a scaffolding rig and lighting up the night sky.

Thousands of spectators, among them dignitaries that included the chief minister of the host state of Maharashtra, Mr Devendra Fadnavis, were evacuated safely. He said that "a comprehensive inquiry into the incidence of fire will be conducted to ascertain reasons".

The blaze began shortly after Amitabh Bachchan had read a poem on the stage. "Initially, we thought it (the fire) was part of the performance; then we realised it wasn't part of the plan," Mr Prasoon Joshi, an Indian lyricist who was at the event, told NDTV news channel.

Eyewitnesses said that the evacuation was orderly.

"We were shaken by the sudden announcement that there has been a fire at the venue but, thankfully, there were multiple exit routes," said Mr Heman Goyal, a Delhi businessman. "There was chaos but we all got out in time. I saw parts of the stage burning."

The fire is believed to have been caused by an electrical short circuit and 14 fire engines and 10 water tankers took just over an hour to bring it under control, said Mr Raviraj Kamde, a fire officer at the Maharashtra Fire Control Room.

Mr Kamde confirmed there were no casualties and people at the event had been evacuated safely.

The show was being held at the opening of the "Make in India" week launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to drum up foreign investment and to put on display India's culture and innovation. When he opened the investor jamboree at a different venue on Saturday, Mr Modi called Make in India "the biggest brand India has ever created".

Make in India Week is being attended by 2,500 foreign companies and 8,000 firms from India.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2016, with the headline 'Thousands evacuated as fire breaks out at Mumbai cultural show'. Print Edition | Subscribe