Fire, fate and future: Uncertainty looms after IOC fire | jaipur | Hindustan Times
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Fire, fate and future: Uncertainty looms after IOC fire

For many, life will never be the same again after the inferno that IOC's Jaipur oil depot in Sitapura industrial area. Thousands of workers, factory owners wonder when they can start work again, report Urvashi Dev Rawal, Sachin Saini and Yuvraj Shrimal.

jaipur Updated: Nov 03, 2009 12:29 IST

The multi-towered inferno that IOC's Jaipur oil depot in Sitapura industrial area turned into for five days now, cost only few lives but has shattered the lives of thousands.

One such victim is Ganga Prasad, (27 years) a canteen worker at the factory Genus Power Infrastructure Ltd, adjacent to the IOC depot. He will from now on have learn to live with the sound of silence. He had turned stone deaf due to the impact of a blast from one of the 11 tanks that were ablaze at the oil depot. His relatives communicate with him through sign language and hope he is able to read their lips.

"He understands only when we move our lips slowly. His ears were bleeding while he was taken to hospital," says Laxmi Mandal, a distant relative who also worked at the same canteen. Ganga is recuperating at the Sawai Man Singh hospital, where 130 of the injured were rushed for treatment.

The two can consider themselves lucky.

Jagdish Prasad, (32) one of the drivers working with IOC at the depot, however, was not so lucky. This father of two children list his life after suffering 90 per cent burns. He died late on Sunday night at the SMS hospital.

His wife, Manni Devi, was inconsolable. "Main to yahi prathana kar rahi thi ki unko kucch bhi na ho," (I was praying that nothing happens to him), she says with tears in her eyes. Who will take care of their two sons and one daughter, she questions as a bleak future stares her.

Almost every fire victim has a tale of distress and despair to tell.

Arguably one of the most pathetic is the tale of this senior citizen Phool Chand, who at the age of 65 works as a gardener at the IOC depot. He had gone to the SMS hospital in the morning for a check up and returned at night to see his world go up in flames.

Tears welling up in his eyes, all that he wishes is that he was dead. "I wish I had died in the fire. It has taken away everything. When I returned, I saw that the entire depot was in flames. I am left with only the clothes on my body, he says at a relief camp located at Beelwa Secondary School, 30 km south of Jaipur.

He had left his village of Gudha Ghotji in Jhunjhunu district, 200 km north of Jaipur, four decades ago. "My wife passed away a few years back and I have no children. I was working at the IOC premises for almost a decade. Now, I have nowhere to go."

But fate had willed strongly that no fire or accident could threaten this marriage made in heaven.

The blast in the evening of Thursday, October the 29th and the huge flames that lept high in the sky had the marriage procession, some 500 meters away from Rang Lal Meena's residence, scattered in all directions. His residence is situated close to the IOC depot.

Meena, a labourer, had spent all his life's savings to make preparations for the wedding ceremony of his daughter (still trying to find out name). With the bridegroom and would be in-laws missing, he was in a state of shock for a while. But soon he was located and marriage could be solemnized at a relative's place.

But it was not a happy ending for Meena as he found his own house burgled when the marriage party returned home. Taking advantage of the chaos the area was thrown into by the fire, thieves struck and cleaned out all the gifts, electronic items and furniture he bought for his daughter.

It was a traumatic moment for the friends and relatives of two grade IV employees of IOC -- Ram Niwas Meena (53) and Kripa Ram Meena. The two died in the blaze inside the depot premises.

Mata Vaishno Devi had failed to protect the two employees. But the Goddess certainly guided their friends and relatives to identify the badly charred bodies.

Kripa Ram (47) was wearing the key chain bought by his son at Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu and Kashmir some 15 days ago. "We identified him through this key chain and a gold implant in one tooth," said Hazari Sharma, his neighbour. Ram Niwas too was identified because of the key chain.