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Delhi fire: 29 still missing; death toll may rise as more remains found

Officials say the four-storey building, which did not have a fire safety certificate, had a single entry and exit point which could have been the reason for the high number of casualties

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Delhi fire

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Mundka
NDRF personnel amid a rescue and relief operation after a massive fire broke out at an office building near the Mundka Metro Station, in West Delhi (Photo: PTI)

A day after a massive fire in a building in outer Delhi's Mundka claimed 27 lives, frantic relatives were still searching for their loved ones with police saying that 29 people remained unaccounted for.

According to the fire department, the death toll could increase to 30 as charred human remains were found in the building during cooling operations on Saturday morning. Twelve injured are undergoing treatment at a hospital here.

The fire department said the four-storey building, which did not have a fire safety certificate, had a single entry and exit point.

"The building had a single escape route which is why there were so many casualties. Twenty-seven people have died," Chief Fire Officer Atul Garg said.

He said it is suspected that an explosion in an AC may have triggered the fire.

Garg added it was difficult to ascertain whether the remains found on Saturday morning were of one person or more.

Harish Goel and his brother Varun Goel, owners of a CCTV camera and router manufacturing and assembling company, in whose office the fire is suspected to have started, have been arrested, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Outer) Sameer Sharma said.

So far, the DCP said, seven of the 27 deceased have been identified -- Tania Bhushan, Mohini Pal, Yashoda Devi, Ranju Devi, Vishal, Drishti and Kailash Jyani.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia visited the spot on Saturday. The chief minister announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those injured in the fire, which started from the first floor of the building.

Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal said he was "deeply pained" by the loss of lives in the tragedy, and called for immediate steps to prevent such incidents in the future. He also extended his condolences to the bereaved families.

Distraught relatives of the missing persons thronged the Sanjay Gandhi Hospital on Friday night hoping to get information about them.

One of them, Ajit Tiwari, said his sister Monika (21) had started working for the company just a month back.

"She received her first salary on Thursday. We got to know about the fire at 5 pm, but had no idea that the blaze broke out at her office building. When she did not return home by 7 pm, we started looking for her," he said.

Monika lives with her two brothers and a sister in Delhi's Agar Nagar. She is from Gonda district in Uttar Pradesh.

Another woman was seen frantically looking for her elder daughter, who also works at the CCTV camera packaging unit.

"My daughter Pooja has been working at the CCTV camera packaging unit for the last three months. We live in Mubarakpur and got to know about the incident at 9 pm. She has a cut mark below her left eye.

"We are looking for her at various hospitals. She is the sole breadwinner of our family of four. Her two younger sisters study in a school," she said.

Ankit, who works at one of the offices in the building, said a motivational session was underway on the second floor when the fire broke out.

"I am very fortunate that I am alive. I could have also lost my life. A motivational session was being held on the second floor of the building when we noticed the blaze. We broke the glass windows and somehow managed to escape," he added.

Deepa Verma, Director of the Forensic Science Laboratory, Rohini, said two teams, including senior experts, are working at the spot.

"They will collect samples for the purpose of identification and collection," she said, adding that these will be handed over to the investigating officer.

Charred human remains have also been found, so possibly a forensic DNA examination would be carried out to ascertain the identity of the deceased, she said.

S K Gupta, head of crime scene, said body remains at fire sites are very difficult to detect, collect and handle.

"Burned exhibits like body tissues at the scene are often modified to a similar appearance. Bones, in particular, become discoloured, brittle, and highly fragmented," Gupta said.

Assistant Public Relations Officer, FSL, Rajnish Singh said the examination of the entire spot will take time as it is a large area.

According to DCP Sharma, an FIR has been registered against the owners of the CCTV camera packaging unit under sections 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 120 (concealing design to commit offence punishable with imprisonment) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.

All the floors of the building were being used by the same company, he said.

The building's owner, Manish Lakra, has also been booked, the police said.

So far, the identities of all but one of the 12 injured have been ascertained. According to a list released by the district magistrate of West Delhi, the injured have been identified as Satish (38), Pradeep (36), Ashu (22), Harjeet (23), Nitin (24), Avinash (29), Sandhya (22), Dhanvanti (21), Bimla (43), Ayesha (24) and Mamta (52).

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Sat, May 14 2022. 15:32 IST
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