Teams from the Forensic Department at the spot where a fire broke out in a building at Anaj Mandi, in New Delhi, on Sunday, December 8, 2019.(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
Teams from the Forensic Department at the spot where a fire broke out in a building at Anaj Mandi, in New Delhi, on Sunday, December 8, 2019.(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

A body pulled out every 5 min for 4 hrs from Delhi factory that caught fire

Firefighters had started the rescue at 5.25am. By 9.58am, the toll had risen to 43. Atul Garg, director of Delhi Fire Service, said the fire department used 30 fire tenders, more than 150 men and 1.5 lakh litres of water.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By HT Correspondents
UPDATED ON DEC 09, 2019 06:40 AM IST

For nearly four hours, every five minutes, a body was carried out of the five-storey building in north Delhi’s Anaj Mandi that caught fire early Sunday morning.

Firefighters had started the rescue at 5.25am. By 9.58am, the toll had risen to 43. Atul Garg, director of Delhi Fire Service, said the fire department used 30 fire tenders, more than 150 men and 1.5 lakh litres of water.

The fire chief said the first team had arrived at the spot by 5.25am from the nearest fire station Rani Jhansi Road, three minutes after the distress call.

“The operation became challenging as the fire intensified. It was a race against the time. Our first challenge was to connect multiple hosepipes for nearly 500 metres to reach the building, as narrow and congested lanes leading to the building restricted entry of our fire tenders,” Garg said.

Sunil Kumar, a senior fire officer, who was among the first to reach the building, said that soon as they started the rescue, they realised that the number of people trapped inside the building is higher than expected. “We immediately called for backup. Delhi police, ambulances, Delhi Civil Defence and National Disaster Response Force personnel were also roped in,” he said.

Garg said ten minutes into the rescue operation, the first occupant of the building was rescued. “The first person we brought out was alive. Within ten minutes, around 5.45am, more occupants of the building were rescued from the first and ground floors where the fire had not done much damage. Since the ambulances were yet to arrive, we rushed them to hospitals in auto rickshaws with the help of locals,” the officer said.

But when the ambulances arrived, Garg said, they realised that an arch-like structure at the beginning of Anaj Mandi on the main road allowed only one ambulance to pass through at a time. This became another challenge,” he said.

Garg said as soon as fire fighters reached the second floor of the building, from where the fire had originated, they found there was only one entrance. “The other staircase that opened o the backside of the building was locked from the outside. We saw that all windows of the building had iron grilles and mosquito meshes which did not allow proper ventilation,” the officer said.

He added that on the second, third and fourth floor, raw material had been stashed, which could have fuelled the fire. Flames on the staircase on the second and third floors prevented people from running down or accessing the terrace. “Most of the occupants were rescued from these three floors. Many of them had fallen unconscious, which made it difficult for us to spot them as it was dark in the building and there was lots of smoke,” he said.

Two firemen also sustained injuries during the fire fighting. One of them + admitted in Lok Nayak hospital had injured his knee and had also inhaled smoke and required hospitalization.

Another firefighter, Ashish Malik, alone had managed to carry out at least 16 unconscious people.

The director said that locals extended help to ensure that the trapped workers are pulled out of the burning building on time.

Mohammad Abid, a 45-year-old resident of the area, said even before the firefighters had arrived, he spotted some men screaming for help from a window on the third floor. The occupants of the houses facing the window tried throwing water on the flames.

“The window had iron grille. Some of my neighbours and I tied two ladders together to reach up to the window. Meanwhile the fire fighter arrived and took charge. They got on to the ladder and cut the grille. We then managed to pull out three men,” he said.

After the fire department concluded its operation, the NDRF personnel followed by police and forensic experts inspected the building to lift evidence to probe the incident.

Aditya Pratap Singh, deputy commandant, NDRF, said that they conducted search and rescue operations along with the firefighters. “Our chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense (CBRN) teams assisted us to find out if there was any hazardous chemical stored in the factory,” said Singh.

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