A massive fire at a four-storeyed building in Delhi's Anaj Mandi area claimed 43 lives on Sunday. The building, which houses illegal manufacturing units, caught fire due to a short circuit, a preliminary probe suggests.
Most of the people working in the units were fast asleep when the fire broke out in the second floor of the building in the early hours and 30 fire tenders were pressed into service, fire officials told PTI. Nearly 150 fire personnel carried out the rescue operation and pulled out 63 people from the building.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh each for the next of kin of those who lost their lives in the fire. The prime minister also approved Rs 50,000 each for those seriously injured in the fire, his office said.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, interim BJP chief JP Nadda and Health Minister and BJP MP from Chandni Chowk Dr Harsh Vardhan were among those who offered condolences to those affected by the incident.
The fire in Delhi's Anaj Mandi on Rani Jhansi Road is extremely horrific. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. Wishing the injured a quick recovery. Authorities are providing all possible assistance at the site of the tragedy.
" Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 8, 2019
Extremely sad to hear the tragic news about fire in Delhi's Anaz Mandi. My thoughts and prayers are with affected families. Wishing an early recovery to those injured. The local authorities are doing their best to rescue people and provide help.
" President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) December 8, 2019
Tragic loss of precious lives in the fire accident in New Delhi. My deepest condolences with families of those who have lost their loved ones. I pray for the early recovery of the injured.
Have instructed concerned authorities to provide all possible assistance on urgent basis.
" Amit Shah (@AmitShah) December 8, 2019
Deeply pained by the loss of many precious lives due to fire in Delhi. In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the bereaved families. I also pray for the speedy recovery of the injured.
" Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) December 8, 2019
Extremely anguished by the loss of lives in fire tragedy at Anaj Mandi, Rani Jhansi Road, Delhi. My thoughts are with bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. Have asked @BJP4delhi karykartas to provide all possible assistance to those affected.
" Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) December 8, 2019
Dr Harsh Vardhan said that he is extremely saddened by the incident. "Constantly in touch with the local administration. Immediately returning to Delhi from Jhansi," he said.
Fire officials said that none of the units in the building had a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the fire department and the congested area made rescue operations difficult. Firemen had to cut window grills to access the building.
The Delhi government ordered a probe into the incident and sought a detailed report within seven days. The state government has announced an ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh each for the next of kin of those killed and Rs 1 lakh for those injured.
Delhi Food and Civil Supplies Minister Imran Hussain assured a thorough investigation into the tragic incident and said that stringent action will be taken against those found guilty. BJP's Manoj Tiwari also announced that the party will give a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to families of those who lost their lives and Rs 25,000 for the injured.
BJP lawmaker Gautam Gambhir said, "I do not wish to indulge in politics but there must be an investigation into the incident. Someone has to take responsibility, it is a tragic incident. Someone is responsible for it and someone should be given punishment for it."
Meanwhile, BJP's RP Singh said that the lost lives could have been saved.
"According to the information that I have received so far, 43 people have lost their lives and around 56 are injured which is very painful. The place where the fire incident took place had narrow lanes and if there were small fire tenders, they could have reached the spot much earlier saving many lives."
He also said that there are many places in old Delhi which are densely populated and have narrow lanes. The Delhi government should come out with a plan to decongest these places and induct smaller fire tenders, he said.
Opposition leaders criticised Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal over the issue of accountability for the accident and blamed the Delhi government for the lack of safety measures at the building that caught fire.
We have lost more than 40 innocent lives to the tragic fire. I've ordered a magisterial inquiry into its cause, no culprit will be spared
We can't bring back lost lives, but Delhi govt will provide ¹10 L assistance to families that lost their loved ones & ¹1 L for the injured. pic.twitter.com/SOT5kR9l5J
" Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) December 8, 2019
Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri, who also visited the accident site, said he was moved by the loss of life and he was with the families of the victims in their hour of grief. "This settlement should not be here, they have been given alternative place but Delhi government has not shifted them," he alleged.
Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta demanded that the Kejriwal government call an emergency session of the Assembly to discuss ways to prevent such incidents.
"Such incidents have become a regular feature which is very painful. The Kejriwal government should call a special session of the Assembly to stop recurrence of such incidents," Gupta said.
Senior BJP leader and former Union minister Vijay Goel said it was the Delhi government's responsibility to take action against illegal factories running in residential areas and prevent fire incidents.
"It has become a common thing now. Such incidents happen, an inquiry is conducted but the government does not do anything. Factories running in residential areas are to be provided plots at alternative places but the government did not do it," he said.
Shame on a CM who spent all budget on advertising & nothing was done on ground
CM @ArvindKejriwal should immediately resign taking moral responsibility for this mishap in which more than 45 people have lost their life #DelhiFire #kejriwalmustresign @ANI @TimesNow @republic pic.twitter.com/2moJSwK4Ah
" Manjinder S Sirsa (@mssirsa) December 8, 2019
Instead of a crackdown on illegal factories operating dangerously in cramped residential areas, 'genius' Kejriwal suggests bike ambulances!!🙄🙄
How does one carry an unconscious patient on a bike ambulance??
" Priti Gandhi (@MrsGandhi) December 8, 2019
Chaotic scenes were witnessed at the site of the fire accident which was clogged with bystanders and politicians arriving in convoys. Firemen made their way through narrow lanes to rescue those trapped inside the blackened building and carried many unconscious labourers on their backs. As the building lacked proper ventilation, most of the people died due to asphyxia.
Even as Delhi minister Imran Hussain assured due investigation and action in the case, Bihar's Water Resources Minister Sanjay Jha blamed Delhi's power department for the tragedy.
"I went to the spot, saw a mesh of overhanging wires. It was bound to happen. The power department is responsible for it. Maximum people were from Purvanchal and Bihar, there were people from Madhubani and Darbhanga. The Bihar CM is monitoring the situation and I believe the death toll will cross 43," he said.
Congress leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Amarinder Singh, expressed condolences too. A press release issued on behalf of Sonia stated, "Hope that maximum lives will be saved and those injured are treated expeditiously."
The Congress president urged upon the authorities of Central and state governments to provide every assistance to victims and their families. She has also urged Congress workers and leaders to assist the authorities in carrying out rescue and relief work at the earliest.
Tweeting in Hindi, both Rahul and Priyanka death said they were saddened by the number of casualties of many people and injuries to many people due to the huge fire. I express my deepest condolences to the family of the dead and wish the injured well soon. Priyanka added that she hoped that relief and rescue operations will be carried out smoothly.
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" Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 8, 2019
The fire in Delhi's Anaj Mandi is absolutely appaling and horrific. My prayers are with family members who have lost their loved ones and I wish a speedy recovery to all injured.
I express my gratitude to the brave team who is carrying out the rescue operation.
" Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) December 8, 2019
AAP's Sanjay Singh held the Municipal Corporation Delhi responsible for the incident and not the AAP-led Delhi government. "If a factory was operating illegally at a house, then it was the responsibility of Municipal Corporation of Delhi to shut it. How did MCD allow the factory to run? Delhi Fire Service has clarified that it didn't give a no-objection certificate to the factory," he said.