‘I might not survive today. Can I see you one last time?’

Relatives of a missing person break down at the Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Mangolpuri on Saturday.

Relatives of a missing person break down at the Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Mangolpuri on Saturday. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

As rescue operations continued at the Mundka building on Saturday, many survivors of Friday’s fire tragedy battled for their lives at the Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Mangolpuri.

While some thanked their stars for exiting the building safely, several others seemed to be in a state of shock and despair, having witnessed traumatic scenes inside the burning building.

“I might not survive today. Can I see you one last time?” cried a desperate Pushpa Pawar, 37, while talking to her husband over the phone as she gasped for breath trapped on the second floor.

Ms. Pawar, who climbed on a crane and landed safely, told  The Hindu her only wish in those moments was to meet her family members at least once.

Talking about her escape, she said she and many other women kept searching for an exit out of the building but found none. “When we tried climbing up the stairs, the doors were locked [on the fourth floor]. Some of the women jumped out of the windows [on the third floor], some climbed down the ropes while a few others reached for the cranes,” she said, adding the cranes could only help bring down people of a certain weight due to technical costraints.

Most victims women

A majority of those killed in the fire – 21 of 27 – were women workers.

The fire started around 3.30 p.m. on Friday from the first floor of the building, said an eyewitness. The fire personnel were able to control the situation within six hours, said Delhi Fire Service chief Atul Garg.

Describing the building’s structure, Ashu, 22, who was sitting on the second floor when the fire broke out, said a CCTV camera manufacturing unit was operational on the first floor, the company owner’s office was on the second floor and a WiFi and router manufacturing unit was located on the third floor. The top-most floor had just a room. “I was attending a meeting on the second floor when around 4 p.m. the electricity went off. I was informed that we have to vacate the office,” he told  The Hindu.

He said none of the floors had any emergency exits due to which they had to break the windows and escape. While most of the people around him jumped off the windows, he was rescued by the last crane. “It was in a near-death moment for me. I was fearing it could be my last day,” he said.

According to local residents, the area is dotted with many manufacturing units and shops, most of which are running illegally. On Saturday, all of those units remained closed, they said.

Missing mother

Scenes of horror were witnessed at the Sanjay Gandhi Memorial hospital where relatives of many victims ran around with little hope and a thousand questions. “My daughter-in-law, Madhu (25), is nowhere to be found. Her daughters are waiting for her back home. I just want the hospital to tell me if she is alive or not. Just tell me if she is one of the 27,” said Asha, 50, a victim’s mother-in-law. Madhu worked at the CCTV manufacturing unit.

“Our family is struggling to sustain. We have financial costs to cater to,” said Asha while explaining how Madhu was the backbone of the family.

Manju, 54, and her husband lived with their son, Vishal, the sole breadwinner of the family. Still recuperating from the financial crisis they saw during the pandemic, Manju’s heart sank when a friend of Vishal called her to inform about the fire incident.

“I was told he [Vishal] jumped from the building. Where is my son? Why can’t they find him?” she asked. A few minutes later her worst fears came true when the police and the medical staff informed her that Vishal was identified among the deceased.

Sunita, whose 20-year-old daughter was still missing till late Saturday evening, said, “Sonam was the eldest in our family of four. I lost my husband last year during the pandemic.”

Sonam worked at the WiFi and router unit. “Just find my daughter, I am not looking for anything else here,” she said, showing the photo of Sonam. She said the company used to seize the mobile phones of the employees once they entered the building.

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Printable version | May 15, 2022 8:25:59 pm |