At least 43 people are dead as a result of a devastating fire at a building housing a factory making handbags in a crowded Anaj Mandi, grains market area in central New Delhi, Delhi police has said.
The area suffers from poor municipal planning and is congested and narrow for any safety standards. Fire fighters fought the blaze from approximately 100 metres away because it broke out in one of the narrow alleyways, absolutely tangled in live electrical wires and too narrow for fire brigade vehicles to access.
Fire Services chief Atul Garg said it took 25 fire trucks to bring the blaze under control and put out. The rescue operation was now complete, he added.
About 60 people, including casualties, were taken out of the burning building. Rescuers took victims to nearby hospitals, some with serious burns. About 15-20 people were treated for burns or smoke inhalation and were in stable condition.
The cause of the fire, which erupted around 5.30 am, has not been yet established. It is possible that a manufacturing unit was operating in the narrow laneway without proper permits and safety precautions. The police and fire officials said they were investigating if that was the case.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the fire as “extremely horrific”.
“My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. Wishing the injured a quick recovery,” Modi tweeted.
The fire in Delhi’s Anaj Mandi on Rani Jhansi Road is extremely horrific. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. Wishing the injured a quick recovery. Authorities are providing all possible assistance at the site of the tragedy.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 8, 2019
To those operating business illegally in the crowded area with consequences as horrific as this, should sound a death knell to the enterprise of those responsible.
According to the ABC TV’s reports, there were many young relatives still looking for their siblings.
“I got a call from my elder brother to come a save him” as the fire was too horrendous said a young man on TV.
“I got a call from his friend informing that he has been injured in the incident. I have no clue which hospital he has been taken to,” another man said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the hospital and met those injured in the fire.
— ANI (@ANI) December 8, 2019
According to a report on Al Jazeera, Manoj Tiwari, a Bharatiya Janata Party Sansad (Member of Parliament) from New Delhi, said most of the casualties occurred on the third floor of the building.
The five-storey building was used not only as factory/warehouse but also housed over 80 workers who lived there, some practically sleeping exactly at the spots they worked during the day. With usually Sundays off, Saturday night the workers would take easy, relax plan their Sunday. Some used the time to call their families and check on how things were at home. On Sundays, they usually slept in and got up late.
Sadly this time many of them never got up and got incinerated, a punishment none of the hardworking workers deserved to be meted out to them. Even if the fire was accidental, negligence in planning and execution and turning a blind eye by the authorities – can only be seen as deliberate. With Prime Minister Modi and Kejriwal swinging into action, it remains to be seen how much help and support is provided to the victims’ families and how strong is the hand of the law – bring those responsible – to justice.