At least 30 people were rendered homeless after a tree fell and destroyed seven shanties at Mandir Marg in New Delhi on Wednesday morning. Three people, including a two-year-old girl who was speech and hearing impaired, were injured.
Locals said that the 20-year-old tree, which stood some 30 metres from the shanties, fell on the roofs around 5am. At least seven families were trapped and neighbours had to rescue them.
“A call was received around 5.10am about a tree having fallen on few shanties on Peshwa Road in Mandir Marg. Fire tenders were rushed to the spot and victims were rescued. Three people received minor injuries,” said a fire department official.
Victims thought it was an earthquake
A loud noise woke up homemaker Sushma Rekwal (28), her husband Narender (30) and son Ankit (8), who felt that the roof of their shanty had fallen on them. First they thought it was an earthquake. Horrified, Sushma screamed at her husband to take her son out safely. Since it was pitch dark, it took them few seconds to realise what had happened.
The family struggled to walk out amidst scattered debris of the roof. Neighbours standing outside helped them out one by one. A crowd had gathered by then and started helping the victims.
“My house was fully furnished, but now nothing is left of it. From television to fridge and cupboards, everything got either broken or damaged beyond repair. It’s a miracle we survived,” said Sushma.
Miraculous escape for a family of five
Labourer Raju does not know how to estimate his losses. He had built his shanty out of the meagre earnings he gets working as a labourer. To sustain the family, his wife too had begun working as a labourer. She is now in the hospital and his children are staying at a neighbour’s house.
“We were sleeping when the tree fell. There was a loud sound of some crash and the roof came falling on us. I got very scared and thought no one will survive. Then the screaming began,” said Raju.
Families had been living in shanties for 20 years
At least four people lived inside each of the seven shanties that were destroyed. The shanties were part of a large slum cluster that has been in existence since 20 years. Majority of the population is from Madhya Pradesh. Men mostly work as labourers and women work as maids.
“We have been living here since 20 years but have never seen such an incident. This has happened for the first time. It was so shocking that now we are scared of other trees in the area. This slum cluster is surrounded by many old trees, whose branches keep falling but no one had got hurt before,” said Prerna (16), a local.