A massive fire in a slum cluster in Masoodpur area of Vasant Kunj, South Delhi, gutted over 700 jhuggis on Friday morning. Though no casualty was reported, over 20 persons sustained minor burn injuries, police said.
The slum cluster, spread across five acres, houses over 4,000 people, most of them hailing from West Bengal and working in nearby areas as domestic helps or scrap dealers. Friday’s fire rendered all of them homeless.
“The fire was reported around 8.30 am and 27 fire tenders were rushed to the spot. It took the fire tenders over three hours to douse the flames. The plastic and wooden material used to build the shanties fuelled the blaze. LPG cylinders inside jhuggis also exploded which made the fire worse,” a fire officer said.
Though the exact cause of fire is yet to be identified, the fire department suspect that a short circuit may have led to it. But slum residents claimed that the fire was triggered by an LPG cylinder explosion in one of the shanties.
Police have registered a case under 436 IPC (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house) against unknown persons.
Meena (43), who works as a domestic help in Vasant Kunj and a resident of the slum cluster for the past six years, said, “We heard a loud crash and rushed outside. We saw a jhuggi in flames and black smoke emanating from it. The fire quickly spread to the neighbouring huts and we ran for our lives. Everything has been burnt… money, belongings… we will go back to Bengal now. What is left here for us?”
Anita, who hails from Uttar Pradesh and lives with her husband and five children, said, “I thought it was children bursting crackers or a tyre-burst. We had recently bought this Jhuggi for a few lakhs by borrowing money from various employers.”
Residents alleged that though the Fire department was alerted immediately, there was a delay in fire tenders arriving, which resulted in such a huge loss of property.
Police denied this and said there was no delay. They claimed that the fire tenders reached the spot within 15 minutes of being alerted.
L-G visits slum, assures help
Lt-Governor Najeeb Jung on Friday directed officials to provide immediate relief to those affected in the Masoodpur fire. He also announced ex-gratia payment to those who lost their houses and their rehabilitation at the earliest. Jung visited the area to inspect relief and rescue operations. He directed the area deputy commissioner to set up camps and provide medical attention to those affected. The government has also set up temporary night shelters to accommodate the affected families.