Delhi: 43 die as fire engulfs factory

At least 43 people, including a minor, were killed when a massive fire ripped through a four-storey building housing illegal manufacturing units in north Delhi’s congested Anaj Mandi area on Sunday morning, in the second deadliest fire incident in the national capital.

Almost all the deceased were migrant labourers hailing from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Police and fire department officials said most fatalities were due to suffocation as the victims were asleep when the fire started at 5.22 am on the second floor of the building.

The building was packed with combustible material, like cardboards, plastic wrappings, garments, rexine, plastic toys and packaging materials.

It did not have a fire clearance and no fire safety equipment was found installed on the premises.

It took over 150 firefighters nearly five hours to douse the blaze. As many as 63 people from pulled out from building. While 43, including one minor, died, 16 were injured. Two fire department personnel were hurt while carrying out rescue work. Those awakened by the fire, suspected to have been triggered by a short circuit, struggled to escape as exit routes were partially blocked and several windows were found sealed.

The police arrested the property owner, Rehan, and his manager, Furkan. The case has been transferred to the crime branch.

The Delhi government ordered a magisterial probe and sought a report within seven days.

PM Narendra Modi and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwalannounced an ex-gratia of Rs.2 lakh and Rs.10 lakh each, respectively, for the families of the deceased. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar announced compensation of Rs.2 lakh for each deceased from Bihar.

An intense political blame game erupted, with the BJP holding the Kejriwal government responsible for the incident. Overhead wires were dangling in the area and despite repeated complaints, government agencies had not taken any action, said Delhi BJP President Manoj Tiwari. The AAP slammed the BJP for engaging in politics over the tragedy. “It is the BJP which is responsible for issuing licences for running manufacturing units in residential areas,” said senior party leader Sanjay Singh. The Congress accused both the BJP, which is power in all three municipal corporations in Delhi, and the AAP.

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