While families of thirteen persons killed in Monday’s blaze and building collapse in Ludhiana deal with their losses, there is another family which has probably been the worst hit in the tragedy. The Ludhiana fire department has lost its nine members at once and the remaining firemen on Tuesday regretted that they could not even bid final goodbye to their colleagues as they were “still on duty”.
At the disaster site on Tuesday, firemen, who had miraculously escaped the tragedy Monday, were seen sitting in a corner with their eyes full of tears. They were remembering their colleagues who were with them only a few hours ago. Now, the fire department of Ludhiana is suddenly short of nine persons. Worse, they will never come back.
Still on duty for rescue work, one fireman said, “Here we are, still standing and performing our duty. We cannot even attend our colleagues’ cremation. They have have left us forever. But duty still comes first.”
“It was our one big family. Suddenly, I am feeling so helpless. But then I remember how my team sacrificed their lives and that I cannot give up. I felt like crying like a child seeing bodies of my colleagues coming out like this. But then this is not what we are taught during our training. We are told that even if we find a body of our parents or spouse, we have to be strong. I wanted to attend my colleagues’ cremation today. I have lost nine gems of my team who handled administrative and field work both. This is the first incident with such high number of casualties in the fire department,” said Bhupinder Singh, assistant divisional fire officer, on duty since the mayhem happened.
Another firefighter, Sukhwinder Singh, asked if lives of firemen in India are so cheap. “Nine members of our family were wiped out. We will make headlines for 2-3 days. Things will be the same again. No firefighting uniforms, meagre salary and no guarantee to life either,” he said.