Five members of a family charred in factory fire in outer Delhi

Five members of a family, including four boys aged between five and 16, were killed in a blaze at a paper plates manufacturing unit in outer Delhi’s Begumpur in the early hours on Monday.

Investigations have been initiated into the cause of the blaze. Some police officers at the spot suspected short circuit to be the cause of the fire. The family of the victims, however, suspected the role of a former employee at the factory who was sacked only a few days ago. The police are questioning him and also investigating possibilities of arson.

Locals alleged a delay of over 45 minutes in sending fire tenders and no rescue attempts by some policemen who arrived before the fire fighters. They claimed to have pulled out on their own all the victims after creating holes in the factory walls. Vikramjit Singh, DCP (Outer), told this newspaper that the fire tenders arrived late as the local caller had given the wrong address to the fire department, thus sending them to a location 2 km away. “It was our policemen who rushed the victims to the hospital,” he said.

In any case, an hour after the arrival of the police, locals pelted stones at them and chased them away. More force was subsequently rushed to the spot. Locals even claimed that women members of the victims’ family roughed up some policemen.
The factory consisted of a large storage space and a room inside. The victims were sleeping in a row in the room that also consisted of the machinery. Finished and unfinished products filled the entire rented space of the factory.

The factory owner Pintu Shah’s distant brother-in-law Dharamveer first noticed the fire at about 2:30 am and managed to rush out of the factory. He alerted the neighbours and other family members who live only a few houses away. Pintu’s mother Sakuna Devi was suspicious how Dharamveer managed to escape with only burns to his hands. The police, however, aren’t suspecting foul play by him.

The victims included Pintu’s son Niranjan, 6, younger brother Vipin, 28, his 12-year-old nephews Nilesh and Shivam, and a third nephew Sarwan, 16. Shivam and Sarwan were brothers. Natives of Khagariya district of Bihar, Pintu’s two sisters had come to Delhi with these children.

“The children had insisted on Sunday night that they be allowed to sleep with Vipin mama (maternal uncle) in the factory,” said Pintu’s wife Aarti. The family insisted the children were in no way employed at the factory.

Many residents said they were woken up by the sound of a cylinder blast. They thought it was a firing incident. “The children were all shouting out for help. Their cries for help had died down by the time we created an opening the factory wall,” a resident Naveen Kumar told Deccan Herald.

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