Two women and a teen died in a factory in Shahdara after a massive fire ravaged the four-storey building and its basement early Saturday morning. Over 100 firefighters spent eight hours dousing the blaze, which broke out around 9 am inside the bath fittings factory located in a cramped lane of Friends Colony in Jhilmil Industrial Area.
While seven labourers were rescued by Delhi Fire Services (DFS), two victims were found dead on the second floor and one on the third floor. The victims have been identified as Shoaib Ali (19), Manju Devi (42) and Sangeeta Devi (46). Police said “they died of asphyxiation”.
“A PCR call was made at 9.17 am. It was a brass tap manufacturing factory; there was brass as well cardboard and plastic packing material inside… those running the factory have been detained,” said DCP (Shahdara) Meghna Yadav.
A police officer said the building had been rented out by Naeem Ahmed, who also owns the factory. “A case under sections 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire) and 304A (causing death by negligence) of the IPC has been registered,” said a police officer.
The victims were rushed to GTB Hospital where they were declared dead on arrival, said police. “I got a call at 1 pm that there has been a fire in the factory where my son works… I was on my way there when I was asked to come to the hospital, as I was told that he was injured. When I got there, I found out he was dead,” said Shoaib’s father, Wahid (40).
DFS Chief Atul Garg told The Sunday Express, “The factory did not have a fire NOC.”
He said that through the day, at least 30 fire tenders were deployed to douse the blaze and operations only ended at 5.30 pm.
“The lane was congested and narrow. Only one fire tender could enter the lane. Despite deployment of several fire tenders, we had to rely on a water relay system — water from one fire tender is transferred using hose pipes to another, and so on, till it reaches the fire tender standing in the lane,” he said.
Garg said that prima facie it appears the fire started in the basement or the ground floor and quickly spread to the other three floors.
According to a worker at the factory, the basement served as a godown, the ground floor is where the brass taps were packaged and the floors above is where they were manufactured.
At 2 pm, as the DFS team prepared to enter the top floor of the building, an officer said that no map had been made available to them. Garg said, “It appears that the area covered by the building is small, but it’s actually quite deep. At first, we noticed that the water wasn’t even reaching till the end, so we had to climb atop neighbouring buildings with hose pipes.”
A labourer who escaped unhurt from the building said, “When I got there, there was smoke inside the factory already. There was chaos and everyone was trying to get out… there were around 40 people inside. I managed to get out before the DFS got here.” He said groups of labourers work on each floor from 9 am to 8 pm, with many pulling night shifts as well.
Lakhan Singh (42), who works at a cable wire manufacturing unit next door, arrived at 9 am and saw smoke coming from the factory: “I screamed and asked workers to get out… there was smoke on the third floor. Labourers from neighbouring factories came outside and we managed to help some people get out.”
Another labourer Akhilesh Mishra, who witnessed the incident, said, “I joined the cable wire factory nearby 10 days ago… what I saw today has scared me. At least 30 people work on each floor at this factory… if the fire had broken out around noon, it would have been worse.”