Tragic scenes were witnessed in outer Delhi's Mundka where a massive fire engulfed a building, killing at least 27 people, and forcing many to jump off the windows or use ropes to slide down to safety. The fire started from the first floor that houses the office of a CCTV cameras and router manufacturing and assembling company, they said, adding more than 30 fire tenders were pressed into service. The owners of the company -- Harish Goel and Varun Goel -- have been detained, police said, adding the building-owner has been identified as Manish Lakra.
They said Lakra lives on the top floor, and an FIR is being registered against him under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code. The Delhi Fire Service deployed cranes to rescue those trapped in the blaze. However, smoke from the fire spread to the entire building and some people jumped off through the windows to save themselves, while some others used ropes to climb down, with police saying a few of them got injured in the process.
In videos that emerged on social media, people could be heard crying for help while others were seen jumping from the building in a desperate attempt to escape the flames.
The police said at least 27 people were killed and 12 injured in the fire incident. They did not, however, specify other details like the gender or the age of the deceased. Delhi chief fire service officer Atul Garg said no firefighter was injured in the operation. Six fire tenders were at the spot and a few people were still feared trapped, he told PTI late on Friday night. A crime branch team had also reached the spot, he said.
According to the police, a call about the fire was received at 4.45 pm following which they immediately reached the building location, near metro pillar number 545. Police officials broke the windows of the building to rescue people, they said, adding the injured are admitted to Sanjay Gandhi Hospital.
During initial enquiry, the police found that the four-storey building was used for providing office spaces to companies. Over 50 employees of the company whose office was located on the first floor were rescued while 27 bodies have been found, they said. Some ambulances were also made available at the spot to provide immediate medical assistance to the rescued victims. There were also traffic jams in the area due to the fire.
The blaze was doused around 11 pm, but cooling operations were underway, a senior fire department official said. President Ram Nath Kovind and several political leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi expressed grief at the loss of lives in the incident.
"Extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to a tragic fire in Delhi. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. I wish the injured a speedy recovery," PM Modi said in a tweet. He said Rs 2 lakh each from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund will be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives, and Rs 50,000 to the injured.
Amit Shah said NDRF personnel were reaching the spot for scaling up the rescue operation. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed pain over the loss of lives, and said he was in constant touch with officers. "Shocked and pained to know abt this tragic incident. I am constantly in touch wid officers. Our brave firemen are trying their best to control the fire and save lives. God bless all," Kejriwal tweeted. Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain visited the spot and took stock of the rescue operations.
This is not the first time that Delhi has witnessed such a massive fire incident. In December 2019, a blaze at an anaj mandi had claimed at least 44 lives, making it the most deadly fire incident in the national capital after the 1997 Uphaar Cinema tragedy that had killed 59 and left over 100 injured. Fourteen years later, a fire during a meeting organised for transgenders at Nand Nagri where almost 10,000 people had gathered, had killed 14 and left nearly 30 injured. In 2018, another massive fire at a firecracker storage unit at Bawana had left 17 people, including 10 women, dead.