Savings of hard toil turn to ashes in bus fire on Delhi-Jaipur Expressway
A sleeper bus caught fire on the Delhi-Jaipur Expressway, killing two women and destroying the belongings of daily wage workers returning home for Diwali.
A homecoming for Diwali turned into a tragedy for families of daily wagers after the sleeper bus they were travelling in caught fire on Delhi-Jaipur Expressway flyover near Jharsa on Wednesday night, killing two women.
The bus was carrying at least 45 passengers from Gurugram to Hamirpur in Uttar Pradesh. Each family was carrying new clothes, cash and gold jewellery that they painstakingly put together after several months of hard labour in Gurugram. All of that was reduced to ashes, said heartbroken passengers and their kin.
Bhagwat Aharwar, who is a close relative of injured victim, Rakesh Kumar, and his wife Mithilesh, said the family was carrying ₹70,000 cash and jewellery worth ₹30,000 back to their village at Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh.
“They boarded the bus with their daughter, Anya, 5, and son Aryansh, 3, to reach Hamirpur. When the fire broke out, Kumar smashed the glass window of the sleeper bed above the seats with repeated punches and kicks and jumped out. Mithilesh first threw Aryansh out, but before she could save Anya, they were engulfed by flames,” he said quoting Rakesh, who was undergoing treatment at Safdarjung hospital in Delhi along with his wife and daughter.
Aharwar added that Anya sustained severe burns to her face, while Mithilesh’s legs got trapped inside the bus and was severely burnt.
“Commuters climbed onto the flyover from the service road and pulled out Mithilesh. By then, she sustained burns to lower body. Rakesh again climbed onto the burning bus through the windows to pull out his luggage but failed. In the process, he sustained burns on his face, head and neck,” he said.
Thakur Das, 50, another injured passenger who is undergoing treatment at the civil hospital for burns to his legs, said everything happened within seconds.
“I was in one of the rear seats when fire engulfed the bus and smoke started billowing. By the time I could jump out through the window, everything inside the bus, including curtains, seat foams and plastic carpet, caught fire. I also heard explosions inside. It took hardly a minute for the entire bus to burst into flames,” Das said, who was also returning home with ₹30,000 cash and belongings to his Hamirpur home. All his possessions too were gutted.
Sachin, 22, one of the passengers to escape unhurt, said his elder brother Dinesh Aharwar (38), his wife Maya and their three minor children and their brother Mahendra Aharwar (26) were on a sleeper berth above him.
“The bus was filled with smoke within seconds. I rushed out through the main door. My brothers got out by breaking the window panes. We tried to look for Maya and Deepali but could not locate them. The bus was on fire by then. We heard firecracker like explosions and also smelled gunpowder,” he said, adding that a few passengers were also carrying cooking gas cylinders.
Following the intervention of Gurugram police commissioner Vikas Kumar Arora, Gurugram police made immediate arrangements of food and shelter for the affected passengers and their children.
On directions of deputy commissioner Nishant Kumar Yadav, the district administration arranged a special bus and sent the unaffected families to Hamirpur late on Wednesday night itself, said police.