Video Editor: Vivek Gupta
Swati Garg, a 32-year-old interior designer, died in a fire at Gurugram’s Tulip Orange towers on Monday, 8 October, but not before saving as many lives as possible. Garg, who is survived by her husband and a 4-year-old daughter, died of asphyxiation after she rushed to the terrace to find an escape during the chaos, but found the door locked.
“Around 2:10 am, Swati knocked my door and said there's a fire. The flames had already reached the third floor. She suggested we go to the terrace. She was ahead of us. Her mother, husband and daughter were also there. I was with my family too,” said Lalita Soni, Swati’s friend and next-door neighbour.
The fire spread to the top floors after the wire shaft on the ground floor caught fire. Residents couldn’t escape as there was only one set of staircase and the wire shafts are placed there.
“We heard some noises around 2 am and woke up. We could see the tower burning. My husband ran to help. I was calling my friends living in the tower to see if they are safe,” said Mona Savlani, a resident of the neighbouring tower and Swati’s friend.
When Swati realised there was a fire, she alerted as many as she could while climbing to the terrace.
While rushing to the terrace, Swati got separated from the rest of the family. While her family and others entered an 8th floor apartment balcony, she rushed to the terrace and found it locked. The smoke had intensified by then, and she couldn’t return.
“We reached the 8th floor and entered a flat. But she was too far ahead and had reached the terrace, I guess,” said Soni.
Annu Bansal, a resident of the neighbouring tower, said the maintenance team of the society is to blame for the mishap and Swati’s death.
“People live in societies because they feel safe. Fire extinguishers are equipped on every floor, but what's the use if they don't work when needed? It was night and the fire alarms didn't go off. That is a matter of concern,” said Bansal.
“If builders are constructing houses, they should be careful. At least the safety norms should be in place. The meters are right in the staircases. So at such instances when the lifts are not functioning and you can’t take the stairs either, what are we supposed to do? You become helpless,” she added.
After the post-mortem, Swati’s body was taken to her hometown Sheopur in Madhya Pradesh for her last rites.
“Swati alerted everybody on her floor first. There's a guy, her neighbour, who was fast asleep after returning home late. But she made sure that she wkes him up and saved him. The boy is traumatised now that Swati saved his life, but she couldn't save herself. Hats off to her that she sacrificed her life for others,” Bansal said.
“She was really helpful and kind. Just a day before the incident, we met on Saturday at a birthday party. I wish we could save her,” said Savlani.
Residents of the high-rise are now deciding upon ways to pay tribute to Swati.
“Navaratri is approaching now. So we are planning to remember her in our prayers in some way by organising a bhandara. We might donate to an orphanage or an old age home in Swati's name so that her memory lives on,” said Bansal.
“We might pay her tribute by making sure that we get regular audits done so nobody else has to meet the fate she has met. Swati's life was lost due to somebody else's negligence. We could avoid that,” added Savlani.
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