Tragedy at PG

‘Papa aag lag gayi hai’, victim’s last words

The call that sent the Hisar family into depths of despair; tragedy raises questions about safety in city’s PGs

‘Papa aag lag gayi hai’, victim’s last words

Amarjot Kaur

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 22

Rapidly spiralling up the ramp of the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Sector 32, ambulances ferrying the charred remains of Pakshi, Muskan and Riya arrived at the emergency ward’s entrance around 5 pm today. While the smell of burnt flesh pervaded the air, the sense of emergency sent the medical fraternity into a tizzy. Two guards at the hospital’s glass-door entrance allowed only those visitors who were in the possession of the gate pass; visibly more doctors rushed in.

“Oh! Where’s my dear little Muskan? Her father rang me up from Hisar. I need to go see her,” inquired Dinesh Mehta. He went in anxiously and came back a while later devastated. Teary-eyed, about half an hour after he gained composure, Dinesh said, “My niece called her father and said, ‘papa aag lag gai hai’ (papa, a fire broke out). He called me and I came straightaway from my Sector 20 residence. She’s no more. She was only 21, studying MCom at SD College here.”

As he slowly moved towards the mortuary, an old onlooker said, “Those first three bodies, stiff and blackened, were completely burnt. The other two will survive.”

A young lad in his twenties hastened towards the ward, asking the whereabouts of fire victims from the onlooker. “My cousin sister, Pakshi, a first-year student of BBA, is here. Her father called me. I am going in to see what happened,” said Raghav Sethia. He was last seen heading towards the morgue.

A final word from Harish Desai, Head, Department of Forensic Medicine, GMCH, cleared the air about Riya, a 21 year old from Kapurthala, too. “Two girls died of respiratory distress, while one, Muskan, suffered 70 per cent burns. Two more girls are being examined and will be under observation. No major fracture has been detected yet,” he said.

Neighbours do their bit

Shaila, a neighbour said, “We tried to douse the flames till the time fire tender reached the spot. There were at least five to seven girls outside the PG accommodation, who were trying to enter inside the house to collect their belongings. Some were calling friends, who were stuck inside. We all tried to mitigate the damage but the sight of young girls who couldn’t be saved is heart-wrenching.”

PG girls in deep shock

The tragic incident traumatised the girls who were outside the PG when the mishap took place. Shruti, one of the PG residents, recalled, “I was sleeping in my room on the first floor. I ran down immediately after the fire broke out. My room was safe by then. My parents are calling me as they are so worried. I am still in state of shock.” Prerna, 18, who returned from her tuition at 6:45 pm, was shaken to see the house ablaze. “I am still trying to figure out what has happened here. I don’t have the strength to go inside the PG now. I had come to this PG just two days ago. I will now look for new accommodation.”


There was power cut in area till 3:30 pm

As per residents of the area, there was a three-hour power cut from 10 am to 1 pm in the neighbourhood. “The second power cut was from 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm. The power must have returned at high voltage after the second power cut at 3:30 pm. That is when we started hearing the cries of the girls. As we stepped outside, we saw huge flames and smoke coming out of the building,” said Mukesh, a neighbour.

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