A tragic fire started early on Sunday morning well many victims slept in beds, resting between shifts at the factory in New Delhi. At this present moment, there are 43 people dead and many others injured.
The factory was located in a congested and old quarter of the Indian capital which had limited access because of the smaller streets.
Every floor had 4-5 rooms. The ground floor hosted a plastic toy manufacturing unit, the first floor had a cardboard manufacturing unit, the second floor was garment workshop while the third floor hosted a factory for making jackets and also had a printing unit.
Many factories and small manufacturing units in big Indian cities are often located in old, cramped areas, where the cost of land is relatively cheaper.
Such units often also serve as sleeping quarters for poor, mostly migrant, workers, who manage to save money by staying overnight at their workplaces.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team arrived at the site of the fire to help in rescue operations.
“The fire was big and we pressed in more than 50 fire tenders… Most died of smoke. Sixty-three people were removed from inside the building, dead or alive,” Garg said.
Tearful relatives spoke of receiving desperate calls from factory workers from around 5:00 am (23:30 GMT) pleading to be freed from the inferno in the dark, poorly lit premises in the commercial hub of Sadar Bazar.
Investigators say the blaze was sparked by an electrical short circuit. Most of the deaths were caused by people inhaling poisonous gases in the cramped factory, The Associated Press reports.
“After the fire, people didn’t have any way to get out and I believe many were asleep and because of the smoke, they got suffocated.”
“Most who’ve died were sleeping when the fire broke out and died due to asphyxiation,” Sadar Bazar’s assistant commissioner of police told AFP.
Families of the victims told AFP they were mostly migrant workers who had come from Bihar, one of India’s most impoverished states. Some of them were paid just 1,000 rupees ($14) a month, they added.
One man who lives in the area, Mohammed Naushad, told the AP that he had awoken to see the flames shooting from a fourth-floor window of the building. He went into the building, and on the third floor he saw 20 or 25 people lying on the floor.
“I don’t know if they were dead or unconscious, but they were not moving,” Naushad said. He carried out at least 10 people on his shoulders.
New Delhi Response
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that the fire was “extremely horrific”, as state and national authorities said they would offer financial assistance to the victims’ families and to survivors.
“It is a very sad incident. I have ordered a magisterial inquiry into it. Compensation Rs 10 lakhs each to be given to families of those dead and Rs 1 lakh each to those injured. The expense of medical treatment of those injured to be borne by the government,” Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said after visiting the site of the accident.
Hours after the tragedy, the Delhi government ordered a probe into the fire and sought a detailed report within seven days.
Police and fire officials said at least 58 others were rescued, with local television networks airing footage of firemen carrying people out of the narrow lanes to nearby emergency vehicles.
Sajjamuddin Ahmad spent two hours searching for his father-in-law and brother-in-law among the bodies and injured before discovering they were dead, he told AFP.
Other relatives said they still did not know what had happened to their loved ones.
“I don’t know whether they are alive or dead,” Noorjehan Bano, whose father and brother-in-law worked and lived in the factory, told AFP outside one of the hospitals.
Authorities said they did not yet know the cause of the blaze but Delhi’s fire services director told the Press Trust of India the site had been operating without the required fire safety clearances.