Amidst debris of tragedy, locked door bears witness to tragic reality
PUNE Smoke and the smell of burnt chemicals, molten rubber and plastic, filled the air in Uravade village, Pirangut, Mulshi taluka, Pune district, on Tuesday. This is hours after the fire that claimed 17 lives had been put out. All 17 fatalities have now been identified.
Of the 17 workers, 16 bodies were found cooped up in a concrete room at the rear end of the structure, which was divided into four compartments.
The women were involved in packaging in the four compartments - the site of the room was now filled with broken metal AC vents, soot, debris from the broken wall, and water mixed with burnt fibres.
“The internal doors to this room were all shut. Sixteen of the workers were in those four compartments. One was on the first floor in the opposite part of the building, which could be accessed using stairs. We had to call for a JCB to break open that wall to gain access. By then, it was too late,” said Devendra Potphode, Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s (PMRDA) chief of fire brigade.
While walking inside the building, the cracks caused by the JCB are seen on the rear wall of the enclosure. The room had two visible exits, one on the inside and the other on the outside. However, the workers who were present at the site claimed that the doors remained shut at all times to maintain the temperature inside.
The JCB pulled out the grill that was installed outside the glass window on the wall of the room. The fire burned for around four hours before it was doused and the cooling process took another four-five hours and concluded at 12:30am on Tuesday, according to Potphode.
Multiple workers claim to have heard a blast and the fire brigade, police, and locals pulled out some bodies in parts.
“Due to the blast inside, some bodies were found in parts. Due to that, initially it seemed like there were 18 victims. However, by now we have crossed-checked with the company officials and found only 17 missing. Everyone else is accounted for. Therefore, the death toll is 17,” said Abhay Chavan, tehsildar of Mulshi area.
A report by a committee headed by Sandesh Shirke, sub-divisional officer of Mulshi, Maval, pointed out serious shortcomings in providing fire safety to the workers and illegal operation of the company since 2016.