55 passengers saved in daring rescue in south Delhi after bus catches fire
Policemen, some passersby and staff members of a toll booth launched a daring rescue saving nearly 55 passengers trapped inside a burning bus on the Badarpur-Faridabad border in south Delhi in the early hours of Wednesday.
Majority of the bus passengers were women and children who were returning home in Jaitpur after attending a wedding in Faridabad.
Rescuers said they had to pull out the passengers one by one through a window after the vehicle’s door got automatically locked.
Chinmoy Biswal, DCP (southeast), said the blaze could have resulted in a fatal tragedy but for the “brave and intelligent efforts” of the rescuers.
As the bus crossed the toll booth, the engine caught fire, forcing the driver to stop the vehicle on the roadside.
“The driver jumped off the bus and ran away to safety even as the fire began spreading to other parts of the vehicle. Since the fire started in the engine, it was impossible for the passengers to get out through to the front door. But the fire also caused the rear door to lock automatically,” said Kundan Gupta, one of the toll staff involved in the rescue operation.
The rescuers tried to control the fire by emptying nearly two dozen bottles containing 20 litres of drinking water each. But the smoke had begun to spread rapidly.
“We were kicking hard on the rear door, but it wouldn’t open. Since there was little time, we began breaking open the window panes of the bus to allow smoke escape,” said Tarun Tanwar, a Noida-based property dealer who was passing by at that time.
Some rescuers bent the iron bars on two windows and made room so that passengers could be evicted one by one. Some others tried to ensure that the victims did not panic and hurt themselves in the melee.
“Within 5-6 minutes, we had brought out almost everyone safely. But we suddenly realised that a five-year-old boy and an elderly woman had been left behind. They were choking because of the smoke and were unable to help themselves to get to the window,” said Gupta.
Some people then nudged the duo towards the escape window and pulled them out. Only the boy needed to be hospitalised because of suffocation, but he escaped without any injuries, said police.
“All the passengers had been rescued before someone even made a PCR call or the arrival of the firefighters. We don’t know the cause of the fire and will register a formal case before probing it,” said the DCP.
On the driver, who was accused by the rescuers of deserting the victims, was not found at the spot when the people searched for him, the DCP said. “We have his details and will question him soon,” said the officer.