Thirteen people died early Friday after a suspected short circuit triggered a fire at a garment unit running illegally from a residential area of Ghaziabad, police said.
Ten of the men died of suffocation and three of the burns they suffered at the makeshift factory in the densely populated Shaheed Nagar, which is close to the Delhi border.
Only three of the 16 staff survived. They suffered minor injuries and were to be discharged from hospital in the evening.
The men were sleeping when the fire started, Ghaziabad district magistrate Nidhi Kesarwani said. “They (the three men) said they didn’t know when the fire broke out. They were sleeping in small rooms and 10 died of suffocation,” she said.
The fire, which started at around 4am, spread from the ground floor that housed the stitching unit to the upper two storeys. The labourers were on the top floor.
The fire department was informed at around 5.20am but fire tenders struggled to get to the building. “The road is barely 9-10 metres wide and is crowded with material and parked vehicles. Still, we put up a ladder and rescued the trapped workers,” chief fire officer Akshay Ranjan Sharma said.
Shaheed Nagar is a maze of narrow bylanes and residential units, most of which have come up in violation of norms including the building that caught fire.
“My plot is residential but I rented it out to a man to run a stitching unit. He had employed labourers who lived there,” owner Babu said. He didn’t have the details of the owner. Garment units are notorious for poor work conditions, flouting norms and underpaying staff. Most of the units in the Ghaziabad locality manufactured jackets.
Last month, eight workers were killed in an explosion at a fireworks factory in Tamil Nadu while a massive blaze in a firecracker factory killed 15 people in May 2014 in Madhya Pradesh.
A fire at a factory where leather bags were being stitched killed six workers in November 2013 in New Delhi. Some of the victims were trapped inside the building and burnt beyond recognition.