200 evacuated by firemen after blaze in Janakpuri building
More than 200 people — mostly students and staff of three coaching centres — had to be evacuated from a five-storey commercial building in west Delhi’s Janakpuri on Tuesday, after a fire broke out in the electric metre box of the structure.
The blaze led to ‘small blasts’ in the electric panel and sent dense smoke to the upper floors. Fire officials said no one was injured in the blaze that began around 11.35am and was doused in the next 30 minutes by three fire tenders, said Atul Garg, chief fire officer (Delhi Fire Services).
Before the fire tenders arrived at the spot, it was the staff of the three coaching centres who tried to contain the blaze. “We had training to deal with such situations. We had fire extinguishers but they proved ineffective,” said Avneet Gupta, who heads Vidyamandir Classes coaching centre on the third floor of the building.
Around 140 students of Vidyamandir Classes and 15 staff were trapped in the building at the time of the blaze. “There were two exit points,” said Gupta, adding that the fire began in a part of the building that did not house the three coaching centres.
Tuesday’s blaze occurred a day after the Delhi High Court directed the north civic body to share plans of buildings in Karol Bagh with the Delhi Fire Services so that a fire audit could be done on a priority basis. The court order came in the wake of a fire in Karol Bagh’s Hotel Arpit Palace in February that had left 17 people dead.
In May, a blaze in a coaching centre in Surat, Gujarat, had left 22 people, mostly students. Days later in Delhi’s Janakpuri, not far from the spot of Tuesday’s blaze, a fire in a hostel had left left five women injured.
Hari Nagar fire station officer Bhupender Prakash said that the commercial property was constructed in over 800 square plot and comprised a basement, ground floor and four floors above that.
“The basement is unused. The ground floor has the electric meter boxes and also serves as parking space. The first floor has a branch of State Bank of India, the second has a coaching centre, the Vidyamandir Classes is on the third floor and the fourth floor houses Bansal Academy,” said Prakash.
The SBI branch had about 30 staffers and 15 customers, there were two people in a computer laboratory at Akash coaching centre, 155 students and staffers in Vidyamandir and five people in the Bansal Academy when the fire was first noticed.
“We teach students in the evening, so only five people were at our centre. When they got to know of the blaze, our staff tried to douse the flames before letting the fire fighters take over,” said Vivek Singh, who runs Bansal Academy.
Fire officer Bhupender Prakash said that when he reached the spot, there was a lot of smoke . “There was a large crowd and panic all around,” said the fire officer.
He said that the situation could have turned deadly had vehicles parked near the metre boxes caught fire. As the blaze started, many people managed to move their cars to a safer distance.
“Had the cars caught fire, they would have blocked an exit point and sent more dense smoke to the upper floors, making it difficult for people to escape from the building,” said the fire officer.
The officer said that while short-circuit in the electric metres is suspected to have triggered the blaze, the status of the fire safety norms and the no-objection certificate of the building is still being ascertained.