60 shops, property worth R5 crore gutted in fire in biggest air-cooler bazaar, Kamla marketdelhi Updated: Oct 25, 2017 00:20 IST
By the time fire tenders doused the flames, property worth several crores of rupees had been reduced into ashes and rubble. Shopkeepers at the market have estimated the damage at over R5 crore. (Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)
More than 60 shops, selling air coolers, electric geysers, water pumps and steel trunks or serving as storehouses for transporters, were gutted in a fire that broke out in Kamla Market in central Delhi, in the early hours of Tuesday.
Twenty-five fire tenders and over 30 firemen took around five hours to douse the flames. The cooling operations, however, continued till late afternoon. No deaths or injuries were reported from the spot. The fire department officials suspect foul play behind the incident.
More than 300 workers and loaders, who were sleeping or working at the market, had a narrow escape since one of the entry-exit points affected by the flames had them trapped. As the blaze was spreading like wildfire, they had to rush out of the market using the main entry gate to save their lives. Situated next to Ajmeri Gate, Kamla Market came up in 1951, and it currently has 271 shops.
Pradeep Bhatia, president of Kamla Market welfare association, said the blaze started around 1am because of a short-circuit in high-voltage wires in an electric pole outside shop number 128. It soon engulfed 60 shops within a radius of 100 metres in 10 minutes. By the time fire tenders doused the flames, property worth several crores of rupees had been reduced into ashes and rubble. Shopkeepers at the market have estimated the damage at over R5 crore.
Fire officials said the blaze started in three separate blocks. They suspect that somebody had deliberately started the fire at each of the three blocks. The presence of inflammable materials such as plastic air-coolers, electric wires, and foams, allowed the flames to spread rapidly.
Some traders blamed the electricity department and the fire department for their huge financial losses. They alleged that the first fire tender arrived almost an hour after they informed the fire control room. “We informed the electricity department as well but the power supply was not disconnected for the next two hours,” said Neeraj Jindal, owner of shop number 261.
Atul Garg, chief fire officer of Delhi Fire Services (DFS), refuted the allegations and said, “The first fire tender stationed at the Civic Centre, located barely 100 metres from the market, reached the spot in less than 10 minutes. “Our firemen began their operation in the block where they spotted the flames. They did not know that fire had also taken place in two other blocks. When informed, more fire tenders were sent,” Garg said.
Bhatia alleged that despite repeated calls and emails, neither Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal nor politicians from other parties visited them or announced any compensation for the affected shopkeepers.
Mandeep Singh Randhawa, DCP (central), said a case of negligence has been registered and a probe has been initiated to ascertain the cause of the fire.