A fire in a slum in Madanpur Khadar razed 58 houses to the ground late Monday night. The cause of the blaze, which started a little before 1 am, has not been ascertained so far. While no casualties were reported, there has been extensive loss of property and cash.
Rulina Khatoun (40), a resident of the slum, said, “We were asleep at the time… The moment we realised what was happening, we rushed out and left many important things behind, like our mobile phones. Within an hour, everything was destroyed.”
Mahmood, the assistant divisional officer (ADO) of the Delhi Fire Services, said the fire department received a call from the Police Control Room at 12.55 am. He said seven fire tenders were sent, and the situation was brought under control by around 3 am.
Most residents of the burnt settlement are Bengali-speaking Muslims from Assam who had been living here for the last seven years. The shanties they had built were made of tin and bamboo.
While the men work as waste-pickers in different parts of the city, the women segregate the collected waste at home. Most families made sure they saved the wooden carts they use to collect and carry waste, though four carts were lost in the fire.
Another major source of income that was lost are chickens, which most families rear to sell in the market. According to Hamida Begum (34), each family owned 100-200 chickens, almost all of which died in the fire.
On Tuesday morning, the site of the fire was strewn with the remains of refrigerators, coolers and cooking utensils. A car parked close to the settlement also got charred, ADO Mahmood said.
According to Rakip Sheikh (16), almost half of the residents were not present at the site when the fire broke out as they had gone to Assam to sort out issues regarding the National Register of Citizens. With their homes locked, they lost everything they had left behind.
Residents said they are currently living in a tent they have made with bamboo and cloth, and that no aid has come their way so far. “We have to keep roza from day after tomorrow, which will be very difficult under these circumstances, especially in this heat,” said Hamida.