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I opted to risk breaking my bones than get roasted, says NCP leader

Ganesh V Dere walked into Mantralaya around 2.40pm on Thursday accompanied by his colleagues to attend a meeting with deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar.

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Ganesh V Dere walked into Mantralaya around 2.40pm on Thursday accompanied by his colleagues to attend a meeting with deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. Armed with the agenda for the meeting, he reached the fourth floor when he sensed something was burning. After walking into the corridor, he saw some class-four employees running for their lives, saying there was a fire in a small chamber in the urban development ministry.

“I walked towards the room which caught fire and stood there for 30 seconds. I thought it was one of those short circuits which could be fixed in minutes,” Dere, an NCP activist, told DNA. He went to the sixth floor for the meeting and saw 60 people in a room waiting to meet Pawar. The corridor was packed with people too. Dere told the crowd about the fire and all hell broke loose.

People ran in all directions. Pawar’s security guards surrounded him and told him to vacate the building. “By then, we realised something was serious. When I reached the ground floor, I realised a majority of the 60 people on the sixth floor had not come down. My mind went to my friend Shivaji Bankar Patil, 49, NCP general secretary from Gangapur (Aurangabad), who was among the people trapped in the building,” Dere said.

He said he alerted the fire brigade officials of the people trapped on the sixth floor and asked them to put up ladders and rescue them. “After Pawar and others left the committee room, the security person accidentally locked the door. We were trapped inside,” Patil said.

“I was devastated when I looked out of the window. I could feel the heat of the fireballs moving from the fourth floor to the fifth,” Patil said. “I could sense death. I knew either I would have to fight the fire or face death.”

Patil then decided to step on to the parapet and use a pole to go down from the sixth floor. “It was dangerous. One mistake and I would have either fallen down or broken my bones. But it would have been better than being roasted in the fire,” he said.

However, on the way down, Patil slid as one of the window air-conditioners caught fire. “It was difficult to beat the flames, but the wind came to my rescue.  Almost breathless, I somehow reached the ground floor with bruises on my hands and legs. Only when I stood up did I realise I was alive,” he said.

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