A 55-year-old woman was killed, 13 people were injured, and 17 people along with two pet dogs were rescued after a massive fire broke out in a five-storey residential building in east Delhi’s Shakarpur early Tuesday morning. A family of four — including two children aged 4 and 12 years — jumped off the balcony of their second floor home in a bid to save their lives, and suffered serious burn injuries as well as fractures.
The two children, Shaurya and Shivay Tiwari, were wrapped in thick blankets and pillows and then thrown from their second floor home by their parents, their relative told HT. He added that the children are currently in a critical condition and admitted in the ICU at a private hospital in east Delhi. Their parents, Kamal Tiwari and Priyanka Gaur, too have suffered burn injuries and fractures.
Meanwhile, the deceased has been identified as Anita Singh, a resident on the fourth floor.As per police, Singh, who had burn marks, probably died of asphyxiation. Her nephew, Piyush Thakur, and sister-in-law Beena Singh were found unconscious inside the house, and rescued by firemen.
“On initial inquiry, it appeared that the fire in Shakarpur’s Ganesh Nagar-II broke out due to a short-circuit in the parking area and soon engulfed the first floor. The residents of the above floors sustained injuries due to excessive heat and smoke. The report of the fire department about the exact cause is awaited,” said deputy commissioner of police (east) Amrutha Guguloth.
Delhi Fire Services (DFS) chief Atul Garg said that the control room received a call at 1.03 am on Tuesday, after which three fire tenders were dispatched, followed by five more. “At least 25-26 people were rescued by firemen, and the team only left at 7am after the cooling down operation was done,” said Garg.
A 31-second video of the fire showed how the flames reached as high as the top floor of the building, which housed eight flats, and also engulfed an electric pole in front of the structure. Police and fire department officials said that due to the petrol tanks of the vehicles parked, explosions might have occurred, which helped the blaze spread.
At least four cars, 11 two-wheelers, and three bicycles parked on the building’s ground floor were gutted in the fire, along with household articles such as ACs, refrigerators, washing machines, beds, and sofa sets, of almost all the eight flats. Locals claimed that multiple blasts could be heard at small intervals. Garg said, “Of the 31 trapped, 25 were rescued by firefighters, while six had jumped off their balconies. One fireman, Samay Singh, complained of breathing issues and was admitted to Lal Bahadur Shastri hospital.”
The staircase, the only accessible entry and exit route in the building, was adjacent to the parking, and got blocked by the flames, said a fire department official. An FIR has been filed against unknown people under sections pertaining to causing death by negligence and causing hurt by act endangering life or personal security of others at the Shakarpur police station.
A narrow escape for someTrapped inside their second-floor house, the Tiwari family fought hard before jumping off the balcony. The children’s mother Priyanka, 36, spent 20 minutes pouring bucket after bucket of water on her two boys and her husband.
“She had burn injuries on her body but kept throwing water to give the children respite from the smoke and heat. After a while, the couple gave up, and locked themselves in a room along with the children, thinking that at least they will die together but their elder son didn’t agree to the plan, and encouraged his parents to keep trying. That’s when Priyanka and Kamal wrapped their children in pillows and blankets and threw them from the balcony, and then jumped themselves,” said the children’s uncle, Sanjay Garg.
Their neighbour Ritik Mathur, 27, who was rescued along with his parents Dharmendra and Shweta, sister Komal, and their five-year-old dog Bujo, told HT thathe saw the boys falling down. “I was in the balcony when I saw Shivay fall, followed by Shaurya. When they fell, they screamed in pain and then became unconscious. I saw their parents also fall. It was scary, and I felt helpless as I awaited help,” said Ritik.
Apart from the Tiwari family, two more people jumped off the balcony of their first-floor homes, and were identified as Naresh Nagar,60, and Shivani Shrivastava,26. While Naresh fractured his hip bone,Shivani fractured her right arm. Shivani’s mother, Suprabha Devi, told HT , “My husband and I were sleeping when the fire broke out, and were woken up by Shivani, who saw smoke enter the house as she was working. I opened the main door but by then the fire and the smoke had climbed up through the staircase. We ran towards the balcony and screamed for help,” she said.
Residents claimed that the fire could have been contained had the fire tenders reached the spot sooner, and had the power been timely cut by the electricity department. “There was a delay of at least 30 minutes from the time the first call was made by locals to the control room. Even the electricity department was informed about the fire but the power supply was not cut off,” said Dharmendra Mathur, Ritik’s father.
Feroz Khan, the fireman who led the firefighting operation, however, said that three fire tenders reached the main Laxmi Nagar-Mother Dairy road within five minutes of the first call. “But the parked vehicles in the narrow lane, loose overhead hanging wires, and Diwali decorations like lights delayed the movement of the fire tenders by 10-15 minutes.We had to remove the overhead hanging wires and the decorative items to make way for the fire tenders. The police personnel helped us remove the parked vehicles, and disperse people who had gathered around the building,” said Khan.
Fireman Khan added that the power supply was still on when the firefighting operation began, which led to the firemen spraying water towards the affected areas with caution.
Resident Dev Singh Adhikari told HT that this was the second fire in the parking lot in the last five months. “Last time, an electric meter caught fire, and damaged a portion of a parked car but no serious damage happened. The electricity department shifted the meters on the outer wall of the building,” he said
Meanwhile, a BSES official, on condition of anonymity, told HT, “Power supply was switched off immediately to ensure safety,” and a BSES spokesperson said that as per initial reports, the probable cause of the fire was short-circuit in the internal wiring of the premises.