AT LEAST 350 huts were gutted in a fire Monday evening in Old Delhi’s Sadar Bazar area, leaving hundreds homeless. The blaze was reported at 6.45 pm and was brought under control three hours later. Police and fire officials suspect a cylinder blast may have caused it.
Nishant Kumar, a ration shop owner and resident, said, “I was in my shop when I heard a loud noise. It sounded like some cylinders had exploded. Moments later, the fire had engulfed everything. I rushed to my house to retrieve some important documents but the fire had destroyed everything by then.”
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The fire was controlled by 9.30 pm, by when most homes were completely gutted. The JJ cluster had come up in 1975, said residents. In the cluster, a majority of residents work as labourers and are migrants from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, said police.
Sanjit Singh, owner of a perfume shop, said, “Had the fire brigade reached on time, a lot of homes could have been saved.”
Sadar Bazar main market is 50 metres away from the spot where the fire broke out. Sadal Dev Mandal, owner of a poster shop, alleged, “The first fire fighting vehicle came in almost 45 minutes after the blaze broke out, and it was almost half empty. By the time the next set of vehicles came in, everything was destroyed. The fire station is close by.”
A Delhi Fire Service (DFS) official told The Indian Express that they had received the call at 6.44 pm and the fire was controlled at 9.30 pm, but cooling operations were on till late in the night.
DFS officials also denied claims that they reached late. “As the spot was not totally approachable by the fire tenders, a lot of time was consumed in setting the hose pipe and carrying it till the exact location. We also have to maintain certain water pressure and we had to work cautiously,” said the officer.
(Sanket Jain is an intern with The Indian Express)