New Delhi, May 14:
In one of the worst fire tragedies in the national capital’s recent history, at least 27 people died inside a four-storey commercial building near Mundka Metro station, in Outer Delhi, on Friday. With firefighting and rescue operations on until late Friday night, officials feared the toll could go up.
Video clips showed people trying to escape the building using a rope, hanging from broken windows. Many people could be seen trying to jump to a different building.
While the blaze broke out around 4.40 pm, the magnitude of the toll became clear only by night, as rescuers managed to douse the flames to an extent and enter the premises — only to find charred bodies inside.
Every few minutes, fire and police officials had to update the number of dead — 14, 16, 20 and eventually 27 — even as fire-fighters continued to spray the building with water, and parts of the structure could still be seen ablaze. At least 12 people were injured.
“Extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to a tragic fire in Delhi. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. I wish the injured a speedy recovery,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted at night. He said Rs 2 lakh each from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund will be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives, and Rs 50,000 to the injured.
“Shocked and pained to know about this tragic incident. I am constantly in touch with officers. Our brave firemen are trying their best to control the fire and save lives. God bless all,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.
President Ram Nath Kovind’s official handle also offered condolences: “Distressed by the tragic fire accident at a building near Mundka
Metro Station in Delhi.”
During the day, Delhi Fire Services chief Atul Garg said 30 fire tenders were rushed to the spot. “It’s a massive fire,” he said at the time, while Delhi Police DCP (Outer) Sameer Sharma called it “a tragic incident”.
Families of those trapped first started receiving distress calls around 4.45 pm, around the same time locals in the area spotted plumes of smoke, and then flames, engulf the building.
According to police, CCTVs, WiFi routers and other electrical equipment were manufactured in the building.
Officials said the fire is likely to have started from the first floor, where a generator was kept, and spread to the second and third floors, where dozens found themselves trapped.
“The power went off and a staff member went downstairs to check the generator. He noticed a fire had broken out there. People tried to leave, but there was just one exit and no way to reach it. It was absolute chaos,” said Govind, whose mother Reena works in the packaging department, and was rescued safely.
Locals and officials estimated that over 100 people were in the building at the time. “A meeting was being held on the second floor due to which several people had gathered there. It appears that the room was crowded and many people tried to make their way out at the same time,” said an official at the spot, adding that most could not make it out through the main exit.
As the fire spread upwards, people began rushing to the third floor.
By 10 pm, members of the National Fire Service had reached to assist the fire and police departments.