Seventeen air-conditioned, low-floor buses of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) were gutted after a massive fire broke out in its Ambedkar Nagar depot in Southeast Delhi around 3 am on Thursday.
Sparks from New Year’s eve fireworks are suspected to have started the fire.
More buses could have been gutted, but employees managed to drive several buses out of the depot to safety.
More than 17 fire tenders took nearly five hours to put out the flames that spread from one bus to another in seconds. “All the 17 vehicles were parked in a queue, one behind the other in a small space. After one bus caught fire, the flames spread to other buses. Depot employees tried to douse the flames, but their fire extinguishers were not enough. By the time the fire department was informed, the flames had spread to all the buses,” a fire official said.
The situation would have been worse had the fire spread to an adjoining CNG pump, but it was brought under control on time. “After the fire broke out, we managed to drive out many buses, but since these 17 buses were in a queue, the fire spread very fast. The tyres and CNG kits started to explode with parts flying. It was impossible to save those buses,” an employee said.
Many local residents were asked to vacate their houses in adjoining areas. No damage to nearby houses was, however, reported.
Debashree Mukherjee, DTC chairperson-cum-managing director, said, “There will be a forensic examination of what could have caused the fire, but that will take some time. We cannot speculate about the cause before that. We will make the necessary adjustments and press more buses into service. Since the gutted vehicles were AC buses, the occupancy was lower than other buses.”
“Bus services will not be majorly affected because of the fire. We always keep eight per cent of our buses for maintenance. In a week, after coordinating with other depots, we may be able to replace all the gutted buses,” R S Minhas, DTC spokesperson, said.