Delhi Anaj Mandi

    On early morning of 8 December 2019, a fire occurred at a factory building in Anaj Mandi area of Delhi where at least 43 people died and more than 50 were injured. It started in a workshop that produced school bags and shoes.

    No space for ambulance to move

    The Delhi Fire Service (DFS) received a call for help around 5:22 a.m. IST and reached the location within five minutes, but their entry to the building was prevented by the intensity of the fire and blockages to the entry points. The residents of the first two floors were able to escape, but those on the third and the fourth floors were trapped, since the fire blocked their exit and the windows had iron grilles over them. Gas cutters had to be employed to remove the iron grilles. The lane leading to the main entrance was congested and could only allow the entry of one fire engine at a time. A second staircase in the building was blocked with stacks of raw materials for the factory. Thirty-five fire engines reached the location and extinguished the fire with an estimated 150 firemen involved who were able to rescue 63 people. A team from the National Disaster Response Force was deployed to assist the fire department in the rescue work. The NDRF team had searched the factory for any remaining trapped victims and swept the area with gas detectors. According to the NDRF deputy commander, the third and fourth floors were filled with smoke and the levels of hazardous carbon monoxide (CO) were found to be very high.

    34 people were brought dead to LNJP hospital, with smoke inhalation being the primary cause of the death

    Two fire fighters were also injured in the incident. As stated by fire and police officials, the injured were shifted to Lady Hardinge Hospital, RML Hospital, LNJP Hospital, and Hindu Rao Hospital. An LNJP Hospital official stated that thirty-four people were brought dead to the hospital, with smoke inhalation being the primary cause of the death. Some of the bodies were charred. He added that among the fifteen injured, nine were under observation. As claimed by the police, most of the people who died were laborers who had been sleeping inside the factory. Doctors stated that deaths were due to asphyxiation caused by smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. The cause of the fire is being investigated. A preliminary investigation and eye witness claims have suggested an electrical short circuit may have been the cause. One worker made a phone call to his family from the building and stated that they were trapped by the fire and there was no way to escape.

    Fireman Rajesh Shukla was praised by the state Home Minister Satyendra Jain for rescuing 11 people. Shukla was an early responder and entered the building to rescue people without waiting for backup to arrive. He suffered bone injuries and was admitted to LNJP Hospital for treatment.

    The luggage bag factory was operating in a residential area. According to the local fire chief, the building lacked a proper fire license and its use as a factory was illegal. The Delhi Police filed a case against the two owners of the factory and assigned it to the Crime Branch for investigation. The owner of the building and his manager were arrested on the same day under IPC sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter). The government of Delhi stated that Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) of the Central Government of India had “minted false claims” about the Delhi factory fire to hide the “corruption and inefficiency of the municipal corporation”. It also alleged that the MoHUA was defending the illegal factory. The Delhi Fire service had stated that the factory had no fire clearance or permits to operate and was illegal, and that safety equipment was unavailable.

    Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, reached on site to make overall assessment, and announced a compensation of ₹10 lakh (US$14,000) to the next of kin of each person that died and ₹1 lakh (US$1,400) for the injured. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted about the incident, calling it “extremely horrific”, and announced a compensation of ₹2 lakh (US$2,900) to next of kin of each person that died and ₹50,000 (US$720) for the injured. Manoj Tiwari, Bharatiya Janta Party state president, announced a compensation of ₹5 lakh (US$7,200) to the next of kin of each person that died and ₹25,000 (US$360) to those who were injured.

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