Rescuers try desperate means, make errors

Factory came up without any permission, no emergency exit

 The factory in Begumpur in which fire persons were killed in a blaze had “no permission whatsoever” from authorities despite using combustible items in the manufacture of paper plates, police said.

“It was an unauthorised factory in an unauthorised colony. No safety and security norm was followed in setting up the factory. There was not a single planned exit route to deal with such emergencies,” Vikramjit Singh, DCP (Outer) told Deccan Herald.

The combustible items, consisting mostly of papers, not only helped the fire spread soon, but they also emitted much smoke.

Though the bodies recovered from the factory were found charred, police suspect most of them died of asphyxia.

“There was no scope for the smoke to escape from the room,” said Singh.
Several such small-scale industries dot parts of outer Delhi where land is in plenty.
Units manufacturing plastic items, footwear and toys have mushroomed in those areas due to low cost of space and cheap labour.

Incidents of fire in these factories are not uncommon.  There have been at least half a dozen cases of minor or major fire incidents reported from such factories in outer Delhi this year alone.

In the latest incident too, the casualty was high because of the factory’s structure and lack of escape routes.

Locals did manage to break open the main gate of the factory, but they were only led to the storage space filled with paper. The door to the sole inner room was inaccessible, said locals.

While the women of the victim’s family wailed and screamed for help outside the factory, some men decided to make way into the factory.

Switched on water motor

Some others, meanwhile, switched on a water motor in the neighbouring house to douse the flames, but it did not help.

“We brought a ladder and some iron rods to break a hole into the factory wall. But the first hole we created was way above the ground and did not help,” said Hira Lal, one of the rescuers.

By the time they realised it was an error of judgement, 15 minutes had elapsed and the cries of help from the victims had reduced.

The flames entered the room containing the victims much later, said residents.
They then spent another 15 minutes to break open another hole close to the ground.

One unidentified man covered himself with a wet blanket and entered the hole that could accommodate only one adult at a time.


“An electric wire fell on him and he rushed out of the hole leaving the blanket behind,” said Kamleshwar Prasad who helped dig the holes.

It was then that factory owner Pintu, whose son was among the dead, entered the building through the hole.

He brought the five bodies out one after the other. He too suffered injuries in the process.

Beyond recognition

“They were all charred beyond recognition. Police then took the bodies to hospital,” said Prasad alleging policemen had arrived in two police control room vans earlier, but had not lent a helping hand.

“Police are mentally better-equipped than us and they wouldn’t have made the mistakes we did. If we could bring out the bodies on our own, they could have done better. Four policemen joining us in the rescue operations would have made a difference,” said another rescuer Kukku.

Police, meanwhile, said locals not only got it wrong in reporting the address, they were also late in reporting the incident.

“People got to know about the incident at 2.30 am. Police and fire were informed 45 minutes late,” said the Deputy Commissioner of Police.

S S Rathore, a neighbour, said it was he who called police and fire department around 3 am. The two departments claimed calls were made to them at 3.13 am and 3.14 am respectively

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