Flaming pandals: Wails amidst cinders | india | Hindustan Times
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Flaming pandals: Wails amidst cinders

?RAJU KAHAN Gaya?? (Where is Raju?) wailed a mother near the pandal. The woman had been desperately trying to search for her son. She was not alone in her struggle to trace the missing ones. Hundreds of parents had been running around the pandals to trace missing people amidst heat and smoke. So devastating was the fire that it took fire brigade personnel several hours to control the flames .

india Updated: Apr 11, 2006 01:32 IST

“RAJU KAHAN Gaya?” (Where is Raju?) wailed a mother near the pandal. The woman had been desperately trying to search for her son.

She was not alone in her struggle to trace the missing ones. Hundreds of parents had been running around the pandals to trace missing people amidst heat and smoke.

So devastating was the fire that it took fire brigade personnel several hours to control the flames. As the news about the fire reached people, there was total collapse of telephone network in Meerut city, with every body trying to find out the whereabouts of their kin.

As night descended on Victoria Park, there were only heart-rending cries and sobbing of people who had lost their loved ones. While the army and para-military forces searched for survivors, for the hapless relatives of victims, it was an endless wait.

Shaken as they were, the survivors were left utterly shocked, unable to narrate the tragedy. One Amit Gupta who had set up his stall near the entrance said everything happened very fast. His wife, Indu Gupta, said around 5.15 pm one youth was seen rushing out of the pandal and he was asking everybody to move out quickly. Indu said she suddenly noticed fire fast engulfing the pandals. The family immediately rushed out. She said within one minute the frames of pandals started crumbling.

Prabha Gupta said everything happened suddenly and “we could not understand what was happening”. There was commotion all over, she added.

Sudhir Pathak said he was looking at the electronic gadgets when he noticed a huge fire in Pandal number two and people rushing out. However by the time he could leave, his shirt caught fire.

The organizers -Mrinal Events- had even allowed eatable shops on the synthetic floor where shopkeepers were using gas cylinders.

While most bodies were recovered from near the exit gate, the intensity of fire did not allow those outside to reach near the inferno to launch rescue operations. The city was thrown into utter chaos as all roads suddenly led to Victoria Park, which made the movement of victims to hospitals difficult.

Meanwhile, in order to escape action, the district administration tonight came out with the explanation that it had not given permission for the show.