Sleeping workers among 43 killed in Delhi factory blaze

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At least 43 people have died in a factory fire in north Delhi, India, on 8 December, which broke out while workers were sleeping inside.

The blaze started at the four-storey building in the city's cramped Anaj Mandi area early on Sunday morning.

The building was home to a manufacturing unit producing items including school bags and packing materials which only aided the spread of the blaze, officials said.

The reason of the blaze is not yet known but Delhi's fire services director told the Press Trust of India news agency that the factory had been operating without the necessary fire safety clearances.

The NDRF at the scene of the fire in New Dehli (Photograph: Twitter)

According to CNN workers had tried to escape from a locked terrace. Boys were also reportedly seen trying to escape from the factory's roof, while others desperately crowded near sealed windows.

"The problem was the smoke -- all the windows and doors were shut and there was dense smoke inside," said Sunil Choudhary, deputy chief fire officer, speaking to the news channel.  

"No one could get out. There was an iron door and it was locked and people were brought out only after we broke the door open. It had become a toxic chamber."

Aditya Pratap Singh, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Deputy Commander, told news agency PTI: "We found carbon monoxide (CO). After this we searched the area manually. The entire third and fourth floors of the building were engulfed with smoke. CO levels were very high,"

Ashok Tiwari, a local confirmed to Safety Management that the building had just one entrance and one internal stairway connecting all the rooms of each floor.

Owner arrested

Most of the casualties were due to smoke inhalation.

Police said most of the victims were sleeping when the fire broke out.

It is thought that an electrical fault in the workshop of the factory started the fire.

Two men, the factory’s owner and the manager of the building, which housed illegal manufacturing units, have been arrested under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire).

“I can't breathe”

Sad relatives and friends shared the last anguished calls from the trapped factory workers begging to be saved from the fire in the commercial hub of Delhi around 5am local time.

One father who was stuck inside made a phone call to ask that his children be looked after.

"Monu, brother, I am going to die today," the man, named Musharaff said in the recording of a call played by the ABP Hindi language news channel.

"Please take care of my kids. I can't breathe. There are so many others here. Just can't breathe," he kept repeating in Hindi, eventually breaking down towards the end of the call.

Another call made by Shakir Hussain (28), who hailed from Bihar, made his last call to his pregnant wife and told her that 'I am trapped. Won't come out alive,'" his brother told the PTI news agency.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, said the incident was “extremely horrific” and added: “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.”

Reporting by Gajal Gupta for the British Safety Council in India 




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