A fire at a factory at Rajiv Nagar in Begumpur, North-West Delhi, killed five members of a family on Monday morning. Four of the dead were children.
The fire broke out around 2.30am at a factory that manufactured paper plates. Eyewitnesses said the blaze was so fierce that it spread to the entire factory within half an hour.
The factory was run by one Pintu Shah, whose family was sleeping inside when the fire broke out. Shah’s five-year-old son Niranjan was among the dead. The other victims are Nilesh, 11, Shivam, 15, Shravan Kumar, 17, and Nitin, 26.
“The victims were all cousins and were visiting their uncle (Shah). The children had insisted that they sleep together at the factory. To keep a watch on them, Shah had asked his cousin Dharamvir to sleep with them.
Dharamvir managed to escape to get help but the others were trapped,” he added.
Shah, who is from Bihar, had set up a paper plate factory in the area and lives in a rented accommodation nearby. The children had come to Delhi on Chhath and were set to return home soon.
Locals claimed the neighbours vacated their homes almost immediately. “We tried using the water pump from the factory but it wasn’t working. We then used water pumps of neighbouring houses and carried water in buckets to douse the fire,” said Hari Mohan Sharma, a local.
Eyewitnesses and locals said the police and fire department arrived almost an hour after the incident. “We had taken the victims to the hospital by the time they arrived,” Sharma added.
Locals said a PCR van was patrolling almost 200 meters from the spot when the incident took place but no cop came to help them.
“We approached them, but rather than helping, they began driving away. Some people even pelted stones at the van, breaking its rear window,” said an area resident.
The police denied any laxity and maintained the blaze was reported at 3.14 am. Eight fire tenders were sent to the spot, they said. “The factory had a stockpile of paper plates and other combustible raw material, which stoked the fire further. The flames were completely doused by 5:50am,” said a senior police official.
The police registered a case under section 304A (causing death due to negligence) and were probing the matter.