Two persons were burnt to death in their sleep and two suffered minor burns when a fire swept through a temporary shelter for the destitute in south Delhi early Friday.
The dead have been identified as 60-year-old Ramesh Chand and 27-year-old Poonam, both were mentally challenged. Ram Singh, 50, John, 55, suffered minor burns in the blaze that started at around 2am and could only be doused after three hours of fire-fighting.
Tucked away in a wild growth overlooking several posh farmhouses in Vasant Kunj, the shelter, a cluster of 30 tents, has been home to around 120 mentally and physically-challenged people, including children, since October when they were evicted from a nearby building by the DDA at the ends of the lease period.
They were forced to spend cold winter nights on footpaths for several weeks before the NGO, Earth Saviours Foundation, that operates the shelter managed to pitch tents.
“We have reason to believe that short-circuit triggered the fire around 2am before it gradually spread and claimed one tent after another as its inmates slept,” a fire official said. At least 20 residents had left and the remaining had been given shelter in a park nearby and the tents that survived the fire, the official said.