A total of 35 shanties were burnt down in Sector 78 on Wednesday night after a fire started accidentally in one of the shanties. The 150 people who used to reside in these dwellings are mostly vegetable sellers, farmers, daily wagers and vendors.
The district administration is yet to ascertain the cause of the fire, but it has established that nobody was hurt.
The shanties’ residents said although they tried to douse the fire, it spread to the whole area within minutes.
“The fire started in one of the shanties at 9.30pm. In a matter of minutes, it spread to all the huts. A majority of the men in our basti are vegetable sellers and vendors and they were out working when the fire started. There were only women and children in the huts at the time and they were unable to douse the fire,” said Khetram, a resident of the settlement.
One of the dwellers, vegetable vendor Ompal, 56, from Badaun, had been sitting on his vegetable cart the whole morning. He would have been selling vegetables in Sector 78 and the adjoining Barola village were it not for the fire, which has left his vegetable cart as his only possession now.
“I have been living here for nine years, working till 10pm every day to ensure a better future for my children, something I couldn’t do in Badaun. Today, after nine years of efforts, my savings are nil and I have no capital to start my business again,” he said.
According to eyewitnesses, five fire tenders arrived 15-20 minutes after the fire started, but they were not able to save any of the slum dwellers’ valuables.
“We could have reached the spot earlier, but we got the information quite late as the residents’ mobile phones were also gone in the fire. We got a call from a Barola resident. By the time we reached the spot, the fire had engulfed everything,” said a fire department official.
A total of 35 families have been affected by Wednesday night’s fire. Many families have school-going children who lost their books and uniforms in the incident.
“They should have been in school right now. But with no uniforms or books and no other place to go, they are staying here,” said Rani, a resident of the shanties.
The district administration and non-government organisations (NGOs) started working on Thursday morning to provide relief to those affected.
Volunteers of nearby Markaz Masjid also reached the spot and distributed food among the victims.
“Our volunteers reached the spot for rescue and evacuation as soon as we found out about the tragedy. We have decided to provide the victims three meals a day for at least one week and also distribute clothes,” said Imam Zakariya, head priest of Markaz Masjid.
Newly elected Noida MLA Pankaj Singh also met the victims and assured them of relief, apart from distributing quilts among them.
“I have met the victims of this tragedy and assured them that they will be provided relief as soon as possible,” he said.
The district administration began distribution of monetary relief on Thursday morning.
“We have completed the survey of the number of families residing in the shanties. A total of Rs1,800 will be given to every family today (Thursday) to buy clothes and utensils. We have written to senior officials for a rehabilitation fund. As the land belongs to the Noida authority, the district administration cannot give monetary compensation for the shanties destroyed,” said Vinay Pandey, tehsildar, Dadri.