Five workers of a saree godown died of suffocation and burn injuries after a fire broke out in the building and they were unable to escape as the owners of the godown had locked the shutter from outside.
The incident took place in the early hours of Thursday at the Rajyog Wholesale Saree Depot and Godown in Uruli Devachi. The godown had no emergency exit and its owners had locked the shutter at the entrance to prevent thefts, said police. The workers had been living in the godown premises, said police.
The deceased have been identified as Rakesh Sukhdevji Riyad (22), Dharmaraj Sukharam Badiyasar (25), Rakesh Bugaram Meghwal (20), Suraj Paruji Sharma (25) and Dhiraj Omprakash Chandak (25).
An offence of negligence has been lodged against the owner of the godown, Bhavarlal Hajarimal Prajapati of Gujarat, as well as his partners Sunil Nandkishor Bajaj and Suresh Ramaram Jakhad, who are residents of Uruli Devachi, said Inspector Suraj Bandgar of Loni Kalbhor police station. “All three have been booked under sections 304 (2) and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. We have arrested Jakhad and Bajaj… we found that preventive steps were not taken by the accused… while locking the shutter from outside, they had not kept an emergency exit open, and fire safety equipment was not in place,” said Bandgar.
Initial investigation has revealed that all five workers were sleeping inside the premises of the two-storey godown, which is built on an area of about 7,000 sq feet, when the fire broke out. According to police, one of the godown workers, Rakesh Riyad, noticed the fire at 4.15 am. He immediately called up Jakhad and told him that the workers were unable to leave because the shutter of the godown was locked from outside, said police.
By the time Jakhad reached the godown, the fire had spread over a large area.
The Fire Brigade team received a call about the incident at 4.30 am and rushed to the spot. While earthmoving machinery was used to pull up the shutter, five fire tenders, 10 water tankers and other equipment were deployed to bring the blaze under control.
The firefighters also broke open the glass on the second floor, but were unable to rescue the trapped workers in time. “We brought the situation under control in a couple of hours. We found the five workers in a serious condition inside the godown. They were taken to Sassoon hospital,” said Fire Station duty officer D N Nagalkar.
The workers were pronounced dead on arrival at the Sassoon hospital. Investigation has revealed that the trapped workers tried to escape by pulling apart the window grills on the second floor, but could not do so. Senior police officials from Pune Rural Police. including Additional Superintendent Jayant Meena, visited the spot later.
Police suspect that fire was caused by a short circuit and are investigating to ascertain the exact cause.
Uruli Devachi is known for its wholesale saree market and several saree shops and godowns have come up in the area located on the Pune-Saswad Road. “This area has recently come under our jurisdiction. We found that people have set up their business here… but the fire safety measures are not in place. They should install basic fire safety equipment…”, said Chief Fire Officer Prashant Ranpise.
Rakesh Tiwari, a local shopkeeper, said, “The victims had been working at the Rajyog Wholesale Saree Depot and Godown for the last two months. I got to know that two of them were married. This is a very unfortunate incident.” Pradeep Nagor, who was close to one of the victims, Rakesh Meghawal, said, “Rakesh was planning to get married in about a month… we are shocked at his death.”