43 killed in massive fire in Delhi’s Anaj Mandi; building owner arrested

NEW DELHI: A massive fire ripped through a factory in Anaj Mandi area of north Delhi on Sunday morning, leaving 43 labourers dead and many others injured, the police said. The fire broke out on the second floor of the four-storey building in the early hours.

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New Delhi, December 8

In one of the worst fire accidents in the city, 43 people were killed after a massive blaze ripped through a four-storey building housing illegal manufacturing units in north Delhi’s Anaj Mandi area on Sunday morning, police and fire officials said.

Most of the people working in the units were fast asleep when the fire broke out in the second floor of the building in the early hours and 30 fire tenders were pressed into service, fire officials said.

A preliminary probe suggested that short circuit triggered the blaze, they said.

Nearly 150 fire personnel carried out the rescue operation and pulled 63 people out of the building.

The police have arrested building owner Rehan and his manager Furkan in connection with the fire incident.

He was booked by police under IPC sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible mat­ter).  

While 43 labourers died, several others were injured, including two fire personnel, fire officials said.

They said none of the units had a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the fire department and the congested area made rescue operations difficult. Firemen had to cut window grills to access the building.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced an ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh for the families of those dead in the fire tragedy, promising “strictest” punishment for those responsible for the incident.

The Delhi Government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident.

Kejriwal visited Anaj Mandi, where an early-morning fire at a four-storey building housing illegal manufacturing units claimed 43 lives, and also met the injured admitted to LNJP hospital.

He announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh for those injured in the blaze and said the government will ensure proper treatment for the injured.

“It’s a very tragic incident. The exact numbers of casualties are being ascertained although over 40 have died. Magisterial inquiry has been ordered. The exact cause of fire will be found after the probe. We will ensure strictest punishment for the guilty,” he told reporters.

North Delhi Mayor Avtar Singh said he has asked the Municipal Commissioner to form a team which will visit the site and probe the cause of fire.

The police said they have registered a case against the property owner.

Chaotic scenes were witnessed at the site of the fire accident which was clogged with bystanders and politicians arriving in convoys.

Firemen made their way through narrow lanes to rescue those trapped inside the blackened building and carried many unconscious labourers on their backs.

Fire officials said the narrow lanes made it difficult for them to carry out rescue operations.

As the building lacked proper ventilation, most of the people died due to asphyxia.

At the three hospitals where the dead and injured were taken — RML, LNJP and Hindu Roa —  distraught relatives had a hard time finding their family members.

Manoj (23), a resident of Begusarai in Bihar, said his brother Naveen (18) was working in a handbag manufacturing unit operating from the premises.

“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,” he said.

According to an unidentified elderly man whose three nephews were working in the factory, “At least 12-15 machines were installed in the unit. I have no idea about the factory owner.

“My nephews Mohammed Imran and Ikramuddin were inside the factory. I don’t know their whereabouts,” the man said.

According to him, many units were operating from the premises which were located in a congested area.

Many people trapped inside were rescued and rushed to RML Hospital, LNJP and Hindu Rao Hospital, fire officials said.

Thirty-four people were brought dead to LNJP hospital and smoke inhalation was the primary cause of the death. Some of the bodies were charred, Dr Kishore Singh, Medical Superintendent, LNJP, said.

Out of the 15 injured brought to LNJP, nine people are under observation and others have partial injuries, he said.

Power discom BYPL said the fire broke out due to some “internal system” in the building.

A spokesperson of power discom BSES Yamuna Power Limited said their team immediately disconnected the power supply.

“It appears that the fire started in the internal system of the building,” he said.

The electricity meters of the building were placed on the ground floor and found to be intact, he added.

Suffocation 

The National Disaster Relief Force team that entered the building said the building was filled with hazardous carbon monoxide.

Most workers of the illegal manufacturing units that ran in the four-storey building in north Delhi’s Anaj Mandi area died due to suffocation, officials said. 

The NDRF, which entered the building after the fire had been doused, searched the building for hazardous gases with gas detectors, said Aditya Pratap Singh, deputy commander, NDRF.

“We found carbon monoxide (CO). After which we searched the area manually. The entire third and fourth floor of the building was engulfed with smoke. The content of CO was more,” he said.

The hazardous gas has no odour or colour, is generally produced when fuels such as gas, oil, coal and wood do not burn fully.

The NDRF deputy commander said his team found some windows at the building were sealed.

“There was a room, where most of the workers were sleeping, which had only a single space for ventilation. Most of the workers had been moved from the third floor. Due to the burning of the materials present in the building, CO was formed, which explains the reason for high CO content,” he said.

Condolences

As the news of the fire broke out, a host of leaders expressed shock over the loss of lives.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the incident as “extremely horrific”.

“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,” the Prime Minister said in a tweet.

“Authorities are providing all possible assistance at the site of the tragedy,” he said.

The Prime Minister also announced an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh each for the next of kin of the deceased. PM Modi also approved Rs 50,000 each for those seriously injured in the fire, his office said.

The amount will be paid from the Prime Minister National Relief Fund, the PMO said in a tweet.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Cabinet colleagues Imran Hussain and Satyendra Jain visited the incident spot to take stock of the situation.

Earlier in a tweet, he described the fire incident as tragic and said firemen were doing their best.

“V v tragic news. Rescue operations going on. Firemen doing their best. Injured are being taken to hospitals,” the chief minister said in a tweet.

Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi condoled the loss of lives in the fire accident.

Union Ministers Hardeep Singh Puri, Anurag Thakur, BJP MPs Manoj Tiwari and Vijay Goel were among those who visited the spot on Rani Jhansi Road.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also condoled the loss of lives in the incident.

“The fire in Delhi’s Anaj Mandi is absolutely appalling and horrific. My prayers are with family members who have lost their loved ones and I wish a speedy recovery to all injured,” Singh said.

“I express my gratitude to the brave team which is carrying out the rescue operation,” he tweeted. PTI

V v tragic news. Rescue operations going on. Firemen doing their best. Injured are being taken to hospitals. https://t.co/nWwoNB4u3Q

— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) December 8, 2019

Am reaching the site of fire incident

— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) December 8, 2019

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

Tragic loss of precious lives in the fire accident in New Delhi. My deepest condolences with families of those who have lost their loved ones. I pray for the early recovery of the injured.

Have instructed concerned authorities to provide all possible assistance on urgent basis.

— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) December 8, 2019

PM @narendramodi announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh each from PMNRF for the next of kin of those who have lost their lives due to the tragic fire in Delhi.

PM has also approved Rs. 50,000 each for those seriously injured in the fire.

— PMO India (@PMOIndia) December 8, 2019