Shanty fire kills couple, their four children in Delhi’s Bijwasan
A couple and their four children, including a toddler, were charred to death in a shanty that caught fire in south-west Delhi’s Bijwasan late on Wednesday night, police said.
The victims appeared to be asleep when the fire broke out. It caused a cooking gas cylinder to burst, and the blaze spread to two other adjacent huts. The occupants of those shanties managed to escape in the nick of time, police said. The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, police said, but said it appeared to be an accident.
Ingit Pratap Singh, deputy commissioner of police (south-west), identified the couple as Kamlesh Kumar Singh, 37, and his wife Budhni (32). They lived in the hut in an agricultural field with their four children -- two daughters, 16 and 12, and two sons, six and three months old.
The family, along with three others from the same village in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district, lived in four huts in an agricultural field next to Valmiki Colony in Bijwasan. They cultivated fields they took on rent.
“We all went to sleep around 10.30pm on Wednesday. Around midnight, I heard people screaming. I came out of my shanty, and found the hut next door on fire. At that moment, there was a cylinder blast that also set my hut on fire,” said Nawal Mahto, a neighbour.
Mahto managed to evacuate the four members of his family, when his hut, and a third one that was unoccupied for the past fortnight, were burnt to ashes. “We had no time to salvage our belongings,” he said.
The hut where the victims died was the first to be affected suffered the most damage. “Our huts are made of wood, plastic, and straw. That caused the fire to spread fast. It appears that Kamleshwar and his family could not open the metal chain they used to lock the door of the shanty,” said Nathuni Mahto, whose hut was the only one unaffected by the blaze.
The position in which the charred bodies were found suggested that none of the six victims could make it even to the door of their hut. “The bodies of Singh and his older son were found next to their bed. The bodies of Budhni, her two daughters and younger son were found on a cot on which they usually slept,” said the DCP.
Several half-burnt books were among the few identifiable items inside the hut. Neighbours said that Singh was keen his children got a proper education, and had enrolled three of them in a government school.
Atul Garg, director, Delhi Fire Services, said four fire tenders were rushed to the spot after they got a call at 12.30am.
Singh’s elderly parents live in Muzaffarapur. “He sent some money to his parents every few months. Now, they’ll have to fend for themselves,” said Nawal Mahto.