Two children aged 8 and 10 died after a fire broke out inside their three-storey home in southeast Delhi’s Jamia Nagar Tuesday afternoon.
The two, cousins Aisha and Zuib, were trapped in the building with four-five women and at least three other children. As locals helped the family escape the building, they got left behind.
Zuib had come to Jamia Nagar from Ghaziabad with his mother, and both children were enjoying the post-exam holidays. Their grandfather, Yasin (60), owns the building, which was home to around 20 members of the same family. When the fire broke out, the men were at a local mosque.
Zuib’s father Dilshad pointed to a burn on his hand and said: “We could not enter the building because of the flames and smoke. Firefighters didn’t make it on time.”
The Delhi Fire Services deputed six water tenders from three fire stations, but the operation was impeded by heavy traffic and several people blocking their way. Some members of the family tried to manage the traffic while others broke open the windows and tried to enter the building wearing handkerchiefs, only to return minutes later, coughing.
“By the time we reached, the entire first floor was engulfed in flames. The fire spread through the wooden furniture; there was also a store rented out on the ground floor which posed a risk,” said a fire officer from Nehru Park fire station.
DCP (southeast) Chinmoy Biswal said the fire broke out due to a short circuit. “It started from the first floor and travelled up. It was controlled on the second floor. The two children were taken to Holy Family Hospital, where they were declared dead on arrival,” he said. A police officer who recovered the two bodies said they were badly charred.
With fire tenders stuck in traffic, locals tried to mount an improvised rescue operation. A kebab stall owner, Nasir, found a ladder and ran with it to the opposite building.
“The women and children were on the terrace, crying for help. I was bound with the help of a rope and others held down the ladder. I had to walk several feet above the ground and carry one child at a time on my back. Carrying the women was more difficult. I am glad the ladder held under the weight,” Nasir told police in his statement.