It was less than six months ago that 33-year-old Swati and her husband Girish moved to a three-bedroom apartment in Tulip Orange, a gated condominium in Gurgaon’s Sector 70. After living in Sector 4 for 10 years, the couple wanted to move to a “better area” for their four-year-old daughter Anjali.
“We felt good schools would be closer, and there would be more children around for her to make friends,” said Girish, who hails from Madhya Pradesh and works at a multinational corporation. “Things had been looking up. Swati had only recently joined a private company as an interior designer.” Their dreams were shattered on Sunday night when a fire broke out in tower B6 of Tulip Orange, where they lived on the fifth floor. As the family tried to escape, Swati died of suffocation.
According to officials from the fire department, a call was received at 2.28 am, and four fire tenders were rushed to the spot. It is suspected that the fire was caused by a short circuit in an electric meter on the ground floor, with the blaze then spreading upwards.
Although the fire remained restricted to the shaft, smoke managed to spread to the staircase, which was the only way to escape. “The electricity went off after the fire started, so lifts did not work, and the staircase was the only way to leave the building,” said Vikas Ranjan, former RWA president of Tulip Orange.
So Swati, Girish, Anjali, and Swati’s mother, who was visiting them for a few days, tried to take the stairs. Elaborating on what transpired, Girish, in an FIR registered at the Badshahpur police station, said, “I was sleeping when at, 2.15 am, the electricity went off. At 2.30 am, we got out of bed and came out of the house to see smoke everywhere.”
At first, the family tried to use the staircase, but then realised that the smoke was coming from downstairs, and began making their way back up towards the terrace. “I stopped on the eighth floor because there was too much smoke, and the door of flat 802 was open. My daughter was with me… Swati continued climbing with her mother… my mother-in-law could not go further and also stopped on the way on another floor. My wife went on her own to get fresh air on the terrace,” said Girish.
Both doors to the terrace, however, were locked, and Swati eventually died of “asphyxia”, her post-mortem, conducted on Monday afternoon, indicates.
Four people, including her mother, were rushed to Park Hospital as they complained of breathing issues.
“The other residents stayed inside their flats. Many did not even wake up and our teams went and knocked on their doors to check on them. Our records indicate the building had a no-objection certificate and all other required permissions,” said fire safety officer I S Kashyap.
“The only violation was the door being locked. Rules state all staircases must lead to the terrace, which must always remain accessible,” he said.
A case has been registered against Tulip Infrastructure, Apple Facility Service Private Limited and Department of Town and Country Planning, under IPC Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), said Subhash Boken, PRO of Gurgaon police.
“We always ensure all necessary precautions… All Tulip buildings have necessary approvals and NOCs… and are equipped with firefighting equipment,” said Shailesh Ranjan, maintenance head, Tulip Infratech. An official from Apple Facility Service Private Limited said, “The casualties could have been more but our security and staff worked hard to contain the damage. All systems for fire safety were in place and working.”