Millennium Post

43 choke, burn to death

New Delhi: 43 people were choked and burned to death as one of the biggest fire incident in Delhi, that engulfed the congested and clogged lanes of Delhi-6, after originating at a small factory building in the Sadar Bazaar area.

The fire originated around 4:30 am on Sunday in the packed Anaj Mandi area of North Delhi and soon, residents, most of whom have been living in the area for generations, started hearing screams of help from workers stuck inside the factory building. As the fire raged on, teams from the NDRF, DFS and other emergency services attempted to rescue as many lives as possible. Traffic in the area came to a standstill as Delhi Police officials continued to control the crowd and stop people from entering the lane where the factory is located.

More than 200 officials from the NDRF, DFS, Delhi Police and the Civil Defence Force were present at the spot to control the situation and more than 50 traffic policemen had cordoned off an area covering a 2 km radius around the flaming building. DFS Director, Atul Garg, Special CP Praveer Ranjan from Delhi Police, and Aditya Pratap Singh from NDRF were among the senior officials who were monitoring the situation on-ground.

There were around five to seven Delhi Police officials who had barricaded the main entrance to the Anaj Mandi area, as a frantic crowd went about trying to take selfies at the scene, with at least thousands more watching on from the adjacent areas, including a flyover beside the bazaar, where traffic was seriously affected due to bystanders waiting to watch what happened next. Delhi Police officials continuously kept herding members of the public away from the scene to keep them and the rescue teams safe.

According to police sources, the owner of the factory, Rehan, had let out parts of his factory premises to the labourers working there, who lived, slept and ate there. Rehan had allegedly let out living areas to four to five workers on each floor of his four-storied factory building. He had purchased the premises in 2004 and police said they are probing who owned it before him. Rehan along with his father and father-in-law owned the premises intially, but later both his father and father-in-law passed away, leaving the factory in Rehan's and his wife's brother's names.

Moreover, reports show that several minors were also employed in Rehan's factories and while the fire originated on the second floor, it has been suspected that the workers inside were sleeping on the third and fourth floors, where most people were found by rescue officials. Initial investigations point to a short circuit in one of the power meters as the cause of the blaze.

The entire area, home to around 300 families, living amongst at least 50-60 factory building, is locked in and has only narrow entrances that do not allow for large fire tenders to enter. In fact, fire services had to scratch their heads to find a way to reach the flames and it took them another 15-20 minutes to connect the hospipes required to reach the building. Moreover, the lanes from where the factory building can be accessed is clogged up with houses falling on each other with unfettered unauthorised construction.

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