Fifteen people were killed and more than 65 injured after a major fire broke out at a packed community centre in east Delhi’s Nand Nagri locality on Sunday evening.
The fire broke out around 7pm at the community hall in Nand Nagri where a three-day all-India congregation of eunuchs was taking place. The police said the fire first started in the kitchen of the community centre and then spread to other parts of the hall.
“A three-day programme had been inaugurated here in the afternoon. A suspected short-circuit in a tent where the programme was being held led to the incident,” said a senior fire official.
As many as 2,500 to 3,000 people are believed to have been present inside the community centre when the tent above them burst into flames, the police said, adding that the death toll could rise.
Officials said the tent, in the form of a shamiana, had been erected in the parking lot of the community hall.
“I was on my way to the market when someone called and intimated me about the incident. The local police was the first to reach the spot while fire tenders took longer,” said Omvir Singh Chauhan, president of local residents’ welfare association.
“We were serving tea to some activists from Haryana when the tent above our heads just exploded in flames,” said a horrified Swapna Kumari, 26, one of the participants in the programme.
“It just took 10 minutes. In that time, not just the tent, but 15 bodies were charred so badly that they are completely unrecognisable,” said Ashu, a participant, at the GTB Hospital.
A fire official said, “While the 34 injured were rushed to the GTB hospital along with 14 charred bodies, one person died on the way to hospital.”
A senior fire official said organisers of the programme had not taken permission from the Delhi Fire Service for their function. He also said an investigation would be conducted to find out if the venue had adequate fire safety measures, including emergency exits.