New Delhi: Four people died in a fire at an illegal workshop in a congested central Delhi area on Monday after one of the workers, a heavily-built man, got stuck at the exit door while escaping and blocked the route for others, firefighters said.
Among the deceased was 55-year-old man, who was eagerly preparing for his daughter’s wedding and he had even shopped for her big day, relatives said. Police said the owner of the house, Ajay Khurana (45), was arrested and a case under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) registered. They said the workshop was being run illegally in a residential area. The police said six workers were ironing clothes on the first floor of the building. The fire broke out when Ajit (23) was putting a white solvent in a spraying machine and it accidently spilled on the floor, police said.
“The affected area was nearly 22 square yards. The fire was reported on the first floor where reportedly work of ironing clothes used to be done,” a senior North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) official said. The firefighters said dousing the fire was a challenge as the lanes leading to the house were narrow and the fire tenders could not enter the congested area. An officer from the Delhi Fire Service (DFS) said they had to take the hose pipes atop the terraces of adjacent houses to douse the blaze. DFS officials said the fire broke out at 12.23 pm in Karol Bagh’s Beadonpura area.
The DFS had received a call about a blaze at a house but when firefighters reached the spot, they found that the first floor of the building housed an illegal workshop where the victims were involved in laundering clothes, an official said. He said the victims were about to steam-iron clothes and were putting the solvent used for laundering in a container when it spilled on the floor and came in contact with the steam iron, triggering the fire. A heavily-built man, who was sitting near the door, tried to escape but got stuck. He blocked the route for others who were inside the building, the officer added.
The deceased were identified as Bagan Prasad (55), Ram (40), Aarti (20) and Asha (40), police said. Ajit sustained minor injuries and was undergoing treatment at the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, they added. He claimed that he was packing materials when the fire broke out. “I was busy packing material when the fire broke out. There were six others present, including three, who pressed clothes. I rushed to the gate and somehow managed to escape,” Ajit said.
Two blaze tenders brought the fire under control by 12.50 pm, the officer said. According to fire department officials, the unit was was being run illegally in a small house. “The area where the workshop was running is a residential area but people are running small factories which are hazardous. The lanes are so narrow that the firetenders also could not enter for rescue operations,” said an officer. According to a relative of Bagan Prasahad, the father of six had booked the tickets to visit his family in Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria.
“He was eagerly waiting to visit his family and was supposed to leave for his hometown on December 2 on Vaishali Express. He had fixed his daughter Nandini’s marriage and had even shopped for her big day,” the relative, Mohan Lal, said. Prasahad was the sole breadwinner of his family, said his relatives. The father of another deceased, Aarti, got to know about the fire from the firm’s official. “I had come to Karol Bagh to pay instalments for a property that I bought sometime ago in Faridabad. Just then I got a call from a lady official from the firm saying my daughter was unwell.
“I rushed to the factory but police officials were not letting me inside. I could see ambulances and bodies being shifted. I was in shock,” Inderpal said. He said he did not have money to even go to the hospital. “A media person at the spot gave me Rs 200 and I rushed to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital,” he added. Aarti had been working as a supervisor for about a year and she lived in an accommodation provided by the company. “Since we stay in DDA flat Vivek Vihar, it was difficult for my daughter to commute. For the last four to five months, she was living at an accommodation provided by the company.”
Aarti has three sisters and a brother. “My daughter was very hardworking. I asked her to get married but she refused saying that she wanted to stand on her feet first,” Inderpal said. A local resident, Parmanad Jaluthria, 43, claimed that when he got news about the fire, he went to the spot and pulled out three people out from the factory. The 700 square feet five-storey building was built 25 to 30 years ago and had only one exit. On the first floor, there was a pressing workshop and on other floors, there were other small factories, Jaluthria said.
In the workshop, which is shut on Sundays, the workers used to clean, press and pack suits and other kidswear, he added. Incidentally, according to a fresh survey undertaken by the NDMC after a collapse of a building in the Sawan Park area in Keshavpuram Zone, five buildings in Karol Bagh Zone of the NDMC were found to be dangerous. The previous tally for Karol Bagh Zone was four, as per the pre-monsoon survey.