“We lost our friends. Ritam was to get married in November. His fiancée works at the nearby Raj Nagar District Centre. Puneet got married just three months ago and was very happy in his wedded life,” said Prashant Sharma, one of the six employees of Indiamart who survived a fire that engulfed their office building in Sector-14 in Raj Nagar on Saturday.
Their five colleagues were not as lucky. Piyush Goel, 28, Punit Mishra, 25, Chandra Prakash Tyagi, 26, and Ritam Dwivedi and Hemant Pratap Singh -- both between the age of 25 and 30 -- could not make it out alive.
The survivors were inconsolable while remembering their friends who were cheerfully working with them just a couple of hours ago. The survivors have been admitted to nearby Gargi Hospital for treatment.
“All of us reached office around 9.30am and were starting work when we saw smoke in the staircase area. When we checked, we saw a huge ball of fire there. We were stuck inside the office,” Prashant said.
The 11 employees were holed up on the second floor office for nearly half an hour as the narrow staircase was engulfed by flames. They also could not go to the rooftop, as the iron door there was locked.
“Seven of us jumped to the roof of the adjacent house from a window. But Piyush (Goel), who also jumped with us, could not make it and fell to the ground. He sustained head injuries and died,” Prashant said.
“We were left with no option. The office was full of smoke and noxious gases, we were beginning to lose consciousness. Realising that we will not get any help, we decided to break the window glass and jump to the roof of an adjacent house where locals had placed a ladder,” said Jazib Siddiqui, a survivor who lives in Delhi.
“One of our colleagues, Vikas, is in the hospital. His leg was fractured while jumping out of the building. There were two fire extinguishers in the office but they could not use it,” said Captain Gagandeep Singh, the administrative head of Indiamart.
Senior officials of Indiamart soon reached the spot. As the families of the employees learnt about the incident, they rushed to the hospital.
Ram Avtar, Chandra Prakash Tyagi’s grandfather, who reached the hospital from Modinagar, could barely talk.
“I have not told his mother that he is no more. I could not muster the courage,” said the man tearfully.
Officials of the Ghaziabad fire department said the building did not have firefighting equipment or a sprinkler system.
“We rushed three fire tenders and also called one from Sahibabad. The building did not need a no objection certificate from fire department -- it is needed only for buildings which are either constructed over 500 sqm or more or are at least 15 metres in height,” said Akshay Ranjan Sharma, chief fire officer, Ghaziabad.