50 charred to death in Meerut
Lucknow, April 10
The state government has announced Rs 2 lakh as compensation to the next of kin of each deceased and Rs 50,000 for the seriously injured.
The blaze tore through three air-conditioned stalls made of combustible plastic and fiber at the Brand India fair where multinational companies had displayed their consumer and electronic products attracting a heavy rush.
According to eyewitnesses, around 2,000 persons were present in the pandals when the fire broke around 4 pm at the Victoria Park. A short-circuit is suspected to be reason behind the fire. The fire spread from pandal to pandal within no time.
The organisers had virtually made no arrangement to respond to such an eventuality. It took almost 30 minutes for the district administration officials to reach the spot. By that time, the damage had been done. Few exit points were kept as the pandal was centrally air-conditioned.
Thick black smoke engulfed the area and flames leapt as visitors ran here and there trying to flee from the inferno. Many succumbed to smoke and injuries suffered during the stampede. Bodies charred beyond recognition lay scattered at the razed stalls.
Meerut’s DIG Rajkumar Vishwakarma said the huge rush at the site made rescue operation difficult. Around 45 fire engines were rushed from Delhi and nearby districts of Uttar Pradesh, he said. “Some deaths could have been due to the stampede that began soon after the fire broke out,” he added.
People were seen running helter skelter trying to know about their family members. A large numbers of people also came out to help the local authorities and the police in rushing the injured to nearby hospitals in cars and other vehicles.
A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the incident.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi have expressed shock and grief over the incident.