Woman uses bamboo ladder, saves 20 workers trapped in factory fire in Delhi
The presence of mind shown by 58-year-old Jyoti Verma saved the lives of 20 workers, who along with 30 others, were trapped inside a burning four-storey footwear factory in outer Delhi’s Sultanpuri on Monday morning.
Verma used a small bamboo ladder as a makeshift overbridge between the factory and the terrace of the two-storey building where she lives. Her timely action helped evacuate at least 20 workers. Four, including two minor boys, were killed in the fire.
Around 6.30am, Verma said she was making breakfast when her neighbour Kunti Devi told her about a fire in the factory adjacent to her building. Verma rushed to her terrace and saw at least 10 workers screaming for help in an open window on the third floor of the factory.
“I was horrified seeing the smoke and fire billowing out. Initially, I had no idea how to rescue them,” said Verma.
She said she first took out a saree and threw it towards the workers. But they were scared to use it to climb down. Suddenly, one worker leaped onto her building in a bid to save his life.
Verma said there was a gap of at least 15 feet between the two buildings and she did not want the workers to risk their lives by jumping across. She asked them not to jump onto her terrace yet and then rushed to her room. By then another neighbour Dharmendra arrived on the terrace.
“All she could find was a small bamboo ladder. I climbed on a makeshift bathroom (on the terrace) and put one end of the ladder on roof of the toilet and the other end on the window of the factory,” said Dharmendra.
In the next half an hour, around 20 workers evacuated the factory using the ladder.
“We cannot come up with words to thank them (Verma and Dharmendra). For us they were God,” said 21-year-old worker Mohammad Ali, who survived the blaze because of their help.
Ali said some workers, who were on the first floor, had jumped off the building because the flames were spearing rapidly and had engulfed the first floor.
Some of the rescued workers alleged that the owner used to lock the main gate every night to prevent theft from the factory.
“When the factory owner’s son arrived after receiving a call about the fire from a worker, the first thing he did was to unlock the gate. But by that time, almost all trapped workers were already rescued,” said Tamanna Begum, relative of the dead brothers — 18-year-old Mahbub Barish and 17-year-old Ayub Barish.
A neighbour Mukesh Yadav alleged that the factory had been running illegally for the past 10 years.
Rohini SDM Nagendra Tripathi estimated that more than 500 such factories are running in various blocks in Sultanpuri.