Workers in a hosiery unit at Bahadur Ke Road had a distressful time on Saturday morning as they made frantic attempts to escape death after a fire broke out in the building.
Eight people were stuck on the top floor of Ashwani Knitwears for half an hour since 9am when smoke first billowed out from the factory’s first floor. Dense, poisonous smoke soon filled the entire building, but the workers could not get out as the shutter leading to them was locked.
The workers finally made it out by breaking window grills and using a ladder that was set up from a building opposite to the factory. They were immediately shifted to hospitals.
The fire destroyed goods and machines worth lakhs, but it is still not clear why it broke out. The factory owner refused to comment. Additional station house officer of Salem Tabri police station, Balbir Singh, said the police are probing the incident, which has again put focus on lack of fire safety in buildings in the city.
In August, 2014, three labourers were died due to suffocation after a hosiery factory caught fire in Ganeshpuri area of Shivpuri. The labourers had found no way to escape as the factory owner had gone home after locking down the unit.
Officials said ten fire tenders pressed into service on Saturday made 30 rounds to and from the fire station to refill. Leading fireman Raj Kumar said the fire was doused after four hours.
Around 25 employees, who were at the ground floor on night duty, also took part in the rescue operation. Among the workers who were stuck, Opinder, Ram Vilas and Mohinder Pal were sent to Jain Hospital, and Asheeq was taken to Ludhiana Civil Hospital. They worked in the factory’s tailoring unit.
Pal was later referred to the Dayanand Medical College and Hospital after his condition deteriorated, but he was later reported to be recovering. The other workers, Kulwinder Singh, Avtar Singh and Ram Swaroop, are said to be stable.
Fire at four other places had firemen on their toes
Even as the city struggled to contain the blaze at Bahadur Ke Road, fire at four other locations --- Jodhewal Basti, Chaura Bazaar, near the bus stand and Chhapar --- had officials from the department on their toes.
Four shanties of the slum area near Jodhewal Basti were gutted with residents losing all their belongings. Two fire tenders were rushed to the spot, leading fireman Raj Kumar said, adding that the exact cause of the blaze was not known.
In Chaura Bazaar, a clothes shop caught fire, possible due to a short circuit. A fire tender was able to douse the blaze in a hour. Witness Sandeep Singh claimed that there was panic in the area when smoke started bellowing out of a shop in the area.
In the third incident, another fire broke out at a house near the bus stand. Leading fireman Kumar again added that there had been a blast in a gas cylinder near the Dyan Singh Complex, but no one was injured.
Assistant divisional fire officer, Bhupinder Singh also had a fire incident to narrate, at a rice mill near Chhapar village. He added that there were no deaths, but a team from Ludhiana had to be rushed to the spot.
“Incidents of fire generally see an increase in summers as there is overloading on the power grid,” Singh claimed.