When 11 employees of Indiamart, who were holed up in the office, cried for help, it was local residents who first came to their aid.
“We called the fire services immediately after noticing the fire, around 10am, but they responded late. Their vehicles arrived around 10:30am. Meanwhile, I switched on my submersible pump to douse the fire. My wife and son climbed to the rooftop of our house and placed a ladder to bring down those stuck in the building,” said Surinder Singh Walia, who lives in the house adjacent to the Indiamart office building.
Nearby bookshop owner Prem Singh and four others removed vehicles parked in front of the building.
“We stopped an earthmover and asked its driver to remove an AC that was on fire on the first floor. We then went to the rooftop of the Indiamart building from the rooftop of a residential building on the other side. But the terrace door of the Indiamart building was locked. We used a hammer to break the lock and also made a hole in the wall. But the fire was fierce and we could not go down. We took water from a tank and kept throwing at the flames downstairs,” Singh said.
“Then fire tenders reached and we took out four employees stuck in the office. They were unconscious due to inhaling noxious gases. We later learnt they died,” he said.
Vibha Pandey, joint commissioner with the income tax department, who resides in the adjacent residential building, said she also called the police and fire department.
“I called the police but they kept asking for the location, which delayed rescue work. The fire tenders arrived nearly 35-40 minutes after we called them. Had they reached on time, more lives could have been saved,” she said.
Sub inspector Mohammed Haneef, posted with the PCR van 31, said he was the first to reach the spot.
“I helped the fire tenders reach the spot,” he said.
Five fire department personnel were also injured in the blaze.
“We rushed to help the victims without masks or firefighting suits. We went inside the building thrice and carried out the victims on our shoulders. While we went inside the fourth time, we fell unconscious,” said Ram Gopal Singh, one of the injured firemen.
Fire officials from the nearest Ghanta Ghar station said they rushed immediately after receiving the call.
“The roads are congested and we tried our best to locate the spot,” said Akshay Ranjan Sharma, chief fire officer at Ghaziabad.