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Meerut: Angry locals heckle CM

People claim the toll from Monday's mishap is much higher and that the Admn is not giving the correct figure.

india Updated: Apr 11, 2006 18:27 IST
Sagar Kulkarni (PTI)
Sagar Kulkarni (PTI)

Seething with anger over the fire disaster that claimed about 100 lives and the way its aftermath was handled, residents of the city and political workers on Tuesday surrounded and heckled Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav during his visit to the site.

Huge steel frames, melted and charred laptops and washing machines, clothes and shoes remained the grim reminders of the tragedy into which the UP government ordered a magisterial inquiry.

Anxious relatives ran from hospital to hospital looking for their missing relatives as 21 bodies were identified and handed over to their kith and kin for the last rites.

There were claims that the toll was much higher and the administration was not giving correct figure. DIG RK Vishwakarma said 10 people were still missing.

At least 20 injured people were admitted to Safdarjung hospital in Delhi where a woman succumbed to burn injuries.

A steady stream of political leaders starting from BSP Chief Mayawati, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan, RLD leader Ajit Singh visited the site of the tragedy and hospitals where the injured were being treated.

But the Chief Minister faced an angry crowd of mostly BJP workers led by two city MLAs. Yadav was virtually forced to cut short his visit in view of the jostling and fisticuffs that broke out between rival party supporters.

The authorities filed an FIR against Mrinal Events and Expositions, the organisers of the consumer goods fair for causing deaths allegedly due to negligence and damage to property.

Three persons named in the FIR Lakhanpal Tomar, Ashish Gupta and Siddharth Malhotra were absconding, Superintendent of Police SS Yadav said.

According to Fire Department sources, rules were flouted by the organisers of the fair and no safety clearance was taken.

Union Minister of State Sriprakash Jaiswal, who accompanied Sonia Gandhi, announced that the Centre would pay an ex-gratia of Rs one lakh to the next of the kin of those killed, Rs 25,000 to those seriously injured and Rs 10,000 to those received minor injuries.

Representatives of television channels had to face the ire of the public for "wrongly reporting" on the number of deaths at 45.

Outdoor Broadcasting vans of some television channels were stoned by the mob at the Victoria Park this afternoon after which they had to take shelter at safer places.

The reason for the rapid spread of the fire was probably because the tents were made purely of cloth and covered by synthetic material, said Narendra Kumar Ahuja, an eyewitness, who had an electronic goods stall at one of the pandals.

According to Ahuja, there were no emergency exits or fire-fighting measures in the tents, which probably led to so many casualties.

"There were two gates one for entry and another for exit. There were no emergency exits nor were there any fire-fighting measures. The fire spread rapidly gutting the three pandals.

"I saw some smoke coming out from the AC duct in the pandal selling garments and books. The fire quickly spread to the adjoining pandals having consumer durables' stalls and another housing a food court," another eyewitness Sanjay Vasudev said.

Bhavika Nehra, an employee with a local infotech firm, who visited the fair on Monday evening said there were about 200 stalls in the three pandals.

"The fire broke out in the food court and then engulfed the pandal having garment, furniture and book shops and within minutes spread to the adjoining pandal having consumer goods stall.

"Immediately after the fire broke out there was utter chaos all around. People were jostling with each other to get out which led to a minor stampede," Ved Prakash, an advocate, whose brother sustained burn injuries, said.

First Published: Apr 11, 2006 10:58 IST