Neelam Singh has been rummaging through ash for the past 10 hours. She knows she won’t find it now, but she is still going through the burnt remains of her life, hoping to recover even a small portion of the Rs 20,000 she and her husband had saved for Diwali.
As 400 jhuggis in northwest Delhi’s Mangolpuri went ablaze on early Monday morning, close to a 1,000 people have been left without a place to sleep in.
“It is a miracle that no one is dead. The fire started around 1am and within half an hour it had spread to all the other houses. The fire officials only came in after an hour and a half, by which time the damage was done,” said Prem Singh, Neelam’s husband.
Rakhi, another resident, was barely able to rescue her bed-ridden mother as her jhuggi was engulfed in the blaze.
According to the fire department, 28 fire tenders were rushed to the spot as soon as they got the information.
For the residents of the slum cluster, however, the help arrived too late. Most houses in the area belong to small-scale scrap dealers, mostly dealing with clothes, rubber and plastic.
The scale of the tragedy, however, could have been bigger if the fire had spread to a LPG refilling station that is located at a stone’s throw distance from the slum.
“We have no idea how it started. Some are saying it was because of a short circuit in the high-tension wires overhead. Others are saying it started in a house,” said Hira Lal, a scrap dealer.
“Prima facie it looks like a case of accidental fire. Officials from the Delhi Fire Service and the forensic team have also visited the site along with government officials and a report will be submitted soon,” said a senior police official.
Another fire was reported from the Chandraswamy Ashram in the Qutab Institutional Area. No casualty was reported.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced a compensation of Rs 25,000 for every household in the area after he visited the spot.