Their family members either missing or confirmed dead, confused, angry and dumbfounded relatives gathered outside Maharishi Valmiki Hospital in Bawana on Saturday night. Forty-year-old Sunita, one of the two confirmed survivors so far, said she had started working at the unit two days ago: “I was getting Rs 6,000 per month… Rs 200 a day… I was packing gunpowder inside firecrackers when I noticed some smoke collecting. Someone said we should run, and I went to the top floor. People had started screaming by then, saying that jumping was our only option. So I jumped and fell unconscious. When I woke up, my leg was broken and I was in the hospital.”
Also at the hospital was Mahipal, who roamed aimlessly looking for his wife, Ram Devi. “Just 10 minutes before the incident, I spoke to her. She joined the unit six days ago, so she could make more money. I don’t know where she is.”
A father at the hospital walked around with his phone in hand, showing pictures of his daughter: “It was her first day at the factory; I don’t know if she is dead or alive.” Around 11.35 pm, relatives of the victims had a tiff with police personnel. As they kept demanding that they be showed the charred bodies, police had to push them outside the emergency department.
Baburam, looking for his 25-year-old sister Soni, said she was five months pregnant with her first child. This was her first job, he said. Vishwanath, who could not find his 35-year-old wife Kusuma, said she used to “fill gunpowder inside crackers”, and no one seemed to care that she was missing. “She is a mother of six children; all of them are asking about her.”
Ten-year-old Sudhir, whose mother is missing, said she had promised him firecrackers from the factory. His father said between tears: “She could be alive, I will go to another hospital to check.”
Dr Jitendra, the CMO casualty at the hospital, said they started receiving the bodies around 7 pm. “Seventeen bodies arrived… Some could be identified. DNA testing has to be conducted on the rest. Two people jumped and suffered fractures.”