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Delhi fire tragedy: Charred shack, broken teen, blank gaze

Delhi fire tragedy: Charred shack, broken teen, blank gaze
Eighteen-year-old Renu needed support to walk in front of a charred shack in Okhla Industrial Area I -- her home. On Tuesday evening, with tears rolling down her cheeks she cried aloud, continuously.
The only time she would not cry was when she would request the people around: "Let me speak to my mamma, pappa and bhai...please!"
She lost her mother and one of her brothers in a fire that broke out at their shack on Monday evening and her father is in hospital with 60 per cent burns. The fire killed five persons and left four injured.
Renu's brother Ravikanth was to get married on Wednesday and her family was in a celebration mood on Tuesday evening. They had about 20 relatives from their village to attend the marriage.
A fire was lit on the left side of the shack and they were cooking roti, rice and daal, and the women were singing traditional wedding songs in a joyous mood.
"It was then that someone said that we need more food as there are more guests, after which Surender (Renu's father) and Ravikanth went to connect a gas cylinder to the stove," Vidyavathi, a family member, told IANS outside the burns department of Safdarjung Hospital.
The tube slipped from the regulator, which was already switched on, and the cylinder caught fire from the fire outside where food was being cooked.
A semi-burnt speaker, crates of soft drinks with molten plastic, broken bangles and smell of ash is what greeted the passersby who would stop to take a look at the charred shack on Tuesday.
Gloom has replaced the excitement of wedding on everyone's face.
On the other side of the road, 18-year-old Jitender was resting on a bed with white bandages on hands and legs and partly burnt hair.
He had come for the wedding and was injured trying to put out the fire.
Jitender does not talk much and stared stoically in the direction of the charred shack. When asked something, he answered with a nod or in monosyllables.
"He is in shock and our brain is not working, leave us alone," his mother said, sitting next to him. Jitender was discharged on Tuesday morning.
Jitender, like others who tried to put out the fire, said that the fire tenders reached late and the first one did not work, thus losing valuable time.
A neighbour said that as there was water shortage in the area, they did not have enough water to douse the fire.
After crying for a while outside the shack, Renu fainted and someone in the crowd gathered outside rushed to get a glass of water to sprinkle on her face.
As she came back to her senses, she had the same three words to utter: "Mamma, pappa, bhai."

Nikhil M. Babu

Nikhil M. Babu

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