At least 43 people, including minors, died and over 16 were injured after a major fire broke out in a residential building being used as a manufacturing unit in the Anaj Mandi area on Rani Jhansi Road of Central Delhi on Sunday morning.
Most of the deceased are from various districts in Bihar.
The building did not have a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Fire Department, and no fire safety equipment was found to have been installed. The building was notified as residential and did not need an NOC, said Atul Garg, Director, Delhi Fire Services.
Monika Bhardwaj, DCP (North), said property owner Rehan and his manager Furkan had been arrested under IPC Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire). The case has been transferred to the Crime Branch for further investigation.
Death toll might rise
A call about the fire was received at 5.22 a.m., following which more than 40 fire tenders were rushed to the spot. Over 53 people trapped in the building were shifted to hospital, where at least 43 succumbed to injuries during treatment. Doctors say the death toll might rise.
Mr. Garg said that it was a four-storey building. The fire appears to have started on the second floor and soon spread to all the other floors. Four people succumbed to burn injuries. The others died due to asphyxiation. Workers on the first floor rushed out of the building after they got to know about the fire. They alerted locals and informed the Fire Department.
“Over 150 fire personnel were involved in the rescue operation. We removed all occupants from the building and rushed them to hospital. Two fire personnel suffered injuries,” he said.
There was no ventilation in the building. There was only one window. There were two exits, but one of the exit routes was blocked and used to store the factory’s raw material.
In separate floors, workers used to prepare school bags, purses and hand-held plastic mirrors, said a fire fighter, who was part of the rescue operation.
“The whole building became a gas chamber. A team of fire fighters entered the building from the terrace after breaking a window. Most of the bodies were found in the hall located on the fourth floor, where most of the workers were sleeping,” said Mr. Garg. “Fire services arrived at the spot within five minutes, but the narrow lane allowed only one fire engine to enter at a time. We entered the building from the terrace by cutting iron grills. The fire was doused at 10.05 a.m. Cooling operation is underway,” Mr. Garg added.
Locals said the buildings in the area were originally used to store grains. But with time, owners switched to other businesses and illegal manufacturing workshops mushroomed.
The injured were shifted to the LNJP hospital, the RML Hospital and the Hindu Rao Hospital.
A police officer said that identity of 28 deceased have been established and they are making efforts to identify the others. “Most of the deceased are from various districts in Bihar. Their family members will arrive tomorrow. Locals guardians or friends have reached the hospital to identify the deceased. The bodies will be handed over to relatives on Monday after postmortem and other legal formalities. A help desk is functioning at hospitals,” said a police officer.