NEW DELHI: Six workers of an illegal leather bag factory in central Delhi died and 12 were injured in a fire that broke out on Saturday evening. Four of the killed workers were women, of whom two were burnt beyond recognition. The other four were identified as Pooja, Rahul, Soni and Piyush.
The incident was reported from the Shadipur Depot area around 5.45pm. Fire officials received a call from a person at the spot at 5.50pm, and sent seven fire tenders to the spot along with teams of firefighters. Witnesses said they heard the trapped workers screaming and saw flames and smoke in the windows of the building.
The cause of the fire has not been ascertained but officials said a short-circuit in the wires on the first-floor exit may have started it. Others said the fire may have started on the ground floor. Forensic teams are examining the burnt premises. Police have detained the factory owner, Varun Gambhir, and are questioning him. They have registered a case of causing death due to negligence under Section 304A of IPC.
Officials said the leather unit (2151/3D) was located behind a petrol pump and had two floors above the ground floor. It manufactured women\'s bags and wallets. \"There were around 40 workers, including 18 women, inside when the fire started,\" said Vikas Shukla, a local resident, who helped put out the fire with a hose from an under-construction building. Officials and the locals used ladders to reach the unit\'s windows facing the road that were screened with thick iron meshes. They rescued two women after cutting out the frame.
\"We started evacuation after reaching the spot within 5-7 minutes, and the area was cordoned off. Our strategy was to reach the people first but simultaneously initiate efforts to douse the fire,\" fire chief A K Sharma told TOI. He said around 12 victims were safely rescued in the first round of operations and were found to have sustained minor burn injuries.
The rescue operation on the upper floor became difficult as the stairway was on fire and the floor had filled up with smoke from below, officials said. The problem worsened when the victims panicked and shut themselves inside the rooms and bathrooms of the building where they were choked or burnt.
The fire was brought under control in two hours, by 8.30pm. Of the two dozen victims rushed to hospital, six were declared brought dead while the others are admitted for treatment.
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