Two dozen hurt in fire from leaking cylinder in south Delhi slum
Officials said the fire outbreak took place around 7.05pm in JJ Indira Camp-2, Srinivaspuri. At least four fire tenders were sent on the spot to douse the flame.delhi Updated: Jan 15, 2018 21:44 IST
Nearly two dozen persons were injured in a blaze caused by leakage in a cooking gas cylinder in a slum in south Delhi’s Srinivaspuri on Sunday evening, police said.
The accident occurred in a narrow bylane of Indira Camp-2 where the cylinder was brought out by its owner upon detecting a leakage.
As one man — surrounded by curious onlookers — tried to plug the leak, an unidentified source ignited the flammable gas that was rapidly leaking, said eyewitnesses.
Though there was no actual blast, eyewitnesses said the impact was similar to a blast as people flung several feet away. The accident also triggered a mini stampede as the victims ran to douse the flames on their bodies, they added.
The fire department provided a list of 23 persons, including 10 women, who received burns ranging from 1% to 55%. Four of them suffered serious injuries and were admitted in Safdarjung Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) till late Monday. Local residents, however, pegged the casualty figure at 29 and claimed that five persons chose treatment in private hospitals.
The injured persons are all residents of the slum near Okhla Mandi which comprises over 250 brick houses cramped along narrow bylanes.
Uma Devi, an eyewitness, said the cylinder is owned by the family of Kishan Kumar, a 45-year-old autorickshaw driver. “Kishan’s family had started using the new cylinder only a day earlier. His wife was about to light the stove around 7pm on Sunday when she smelled gas. The family rushed out of their home with the cylinder from their narrow exit,” said Devi.
Kumar sought help to plug the leak from Surender, a local shopkeeper, said Devi, adding, “Surender was trying to fix the knob with his hands when the cylinder tipped over and fell, causing the gas to rapidly spew in one direction in the lane. Suddenly the gas caught fire and the flames engulfed a 30-metre stretch in that direction,” said Devi, who was on the other side of that lane.
No houses were gutted, however, some curtains and overhead wires were burnt. Residents said the blaze was unlike anything they had ever seen in the slum.
When the gas caught fire, “people were propelled like rockets. One man flew like a football. Two women who were had wet jute sacks ready to avert any accident by the leaking cylinder were thrown several feet away. One of them landed in a drain,” said Sudesh Chaudhary, another eyewitness.
The two women, Sadhna and Keshanta, each received 25% burns, mainly to their heads, faces and limbs. The other two seriously injured persons were Kishan and his wife, Leelawati, the owners of the cylinder. They received 25% and 55% burns, respectively.
Amid all this action, the shopkeeper, Surender, decided to run with the cylinder towards the lane’s exit to prevent more casualties. “Surender could carry the cylinder only for a few metres before his own burns forced him to drop it,” said Chaudhary. Surender was at the other end of the nozzle so he got 5% burns.
“I was sleeping when I was woken up by noises in the alley. As soon as I opened the door of my home, flames hit me in the face and I was injured. I shut the door and stayed inside till people told me it was safe to come out,” said Shiva Sahoo, Kumar’s neighbour who received 7% burns.
The flames lasted less than two minutes, said eyewitnesses. “But in that time, I saw people rolling on the floor to douse the flames on their bodies. Some tried to take off their clothes, but it stuck to their skin,” said Radhe Shyam, an eyewitness. By the time the fire tenders arrived, there was little to do as residents had already taken the victims to hospitals.
Chinmoy Biswal, deputy commissioner of police (south-east), said, “A case of negligent conduct with respect to fire against unknown persons has been registered at Amar Colony police station. We will proceed further after we receive a report from the fire department.”