Tragedy averted, 40 saved from burning house in east Delhi
A repeat of Anaj Mandi-type fire tragedy was averted in east Delhi’s Krishna Nagar in the early hours of Thursday after a host of “favourable factors” allowed Delhi Fire Services officials to rescue at least 40 people trapped in a burning four-storey building.
A congested neighbourhood, an overcrowded building whose ground floor served as a godown for plastic waste material and dense smoke fanning out to all floors were all recipes for disaster reminiscent of December 8 Anaj Mandi blaze that left 45 persons dead, said Atul Garg, director of Delhi Fire Services.
“But right information by the caller, quick thinking by the fire fighters and open gates helped us prevent any casualties on Thursday,” added Garg.
The fire department said that the four-storey building in Krishna Nagar, which caught fire on Thursday, was constructed over a 150 square yard plot and consisted a godown for waste plastic materials on its ground floor.
Nearly 50 people lived in the building’s rooms and halls on the remaining three floors.
“These were mostly workers living on rent. The building is illegal, like all others in this neighbourhood,” said Garg.
The call regarding the fire was first made at 2.10am on Thursday.
“The caller informed that there was a godown on the ground floor and dozens of residents were stuck on the upper floors,” said Garg. The absence of similar detailed initial information in the Anaj Mandi case or the more recent blaze in Prem Nagar had resulted in casualties.
Santosh Kumar, station officer of Mandawali fire station, said that the absence of traffic at that time of the morning ensured that three fire tenders reached the spot in less than five minutes. “The building’s door was open, but a mountain of plastic waste piled in the ground floor was burning. Dense smoke had engulfed all the top floors,” said Kumar.
There were 18 fire fighters who divided in two teams and took part in the rescue operation. “One team was tasked with fighting the fire and preventing more smoke from building up. The other team sprung into action to rescue people who had either managed to get to the terrace or were trapped in the rooms,” said Kumar.
Garg said that somehow all the occupants of the building were awake by the time the fire tenders reached. “We didn’t have to waste valuable time waking people up or breaking open doors,” he said.
Kumar said that only a handful of occupants had managed to escape to the terrace. “Most others, including three children and two women, were in the rooms and halls on the three floors. They were screaming for help and we couldn’t understand anything. The smoke on the staircase and the darkness all around prevented them from escaping,” he said.
The fire fighters who had managed to get to the top of the building put on appropriate gear before entering the
smoke-filled building to rescue people.
“We rescued at least 40 people from the building. None of them were unconscious or needed hospitalisation. They were all coughing badly though. We offered them water,” said Kumar.
“The circumstances were so similar to the Anaj Mandi case. Had the rescue been delayed by even a few more minutes, many people would have perished,” Kumar added.