Over 250 people who stayed at three porta cabin shelters at Yamuna Pushta, which were damaged in a fire Saturday, were shifted to a municipal school nearby. Officials said that while there were close to 7,000 people being fed at the 15 porta cabin shelter homes at the Pushta earlier, the number of people staying in and around the area had come down to 2,000 over the past few days.
The fire, according to Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), broke out at 5 pm and was soon brought under control. DUSIB member Bipin Rai said, “A fight broke out between people from the shelter and those from outside over rumours about a body in the river. Stone pelting began, followed by a fire lit using a matchstick. No one was injured. Blankets, personal belongings, water dispensers and garbage were among the many things that caught fire. An FIR has been registered and arrests have been made.”
Of the 15 porta cabins, three were destroyed. The incident took place hours after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that the Prime Minister had decided to extend the lockdown. Officials, however, said that the fire was not related to the announcement as most were unaware that the lockdown had been extended.
“The three homes have been evacuated. Arrangements have been made to shift around 250 people to an MCD school nearby tonight,” said Rai.
“Those at the remaining shelters are safe. These things happen from time to time. If and when they do, police are deployed. Even though this was a one-off incident, we are taking all possible measures to avoid incidents like this,” he added.
Ramesh Chand, a civil defence officer in charge of the shelters, alleged that outsiders were involved in fanning tensions: “People came from outside and created a scene. There was confusion about a body in the river. We are certain that the body was not related to the shelter home residents.”
The Yamuna Pushta shelter home, a stone’s throw from the Nigambodh Ghat, is among the most crowded in the city. Since the shelters have limited capacity and often get unbearably hot during the summer, hundreds sleep out in the open nearby. The numbers usually swell during lunch and dinner.
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