New Delhi factory fire: Dozens of workers sleeping inside killed

New Delhi factory fire: Dozens of workers sleeping inside killed
Ambulances and a firefighting vehicle at the scene of the deadly fire that swept through a factory where labourers were sleeping in New Delhi



 At least 43 people have died in a devastating fire in a multi-storey building housing a factory in a congested market area of India's capital New Delhi, officials said.

The blaze broke out around 5.30am local time (00:00 GMT) on Sunday in the city's old quarter, whose narrow lanes are lined with many small manufacturing and storage units.

Monika Bhardwaj, deputy police commissioner of New Delhi's north district, said that the death toll from the incident had jumped to "43, with 16 others still admitted at the local hospitals".

"Fire department has completed the rescue work. There are no more bodies at the site. We don't yet know the cause of fire but know that it was aggravated because of plastic packing pouches, bags and other such material there," Bhardwaj added.

Fire officials said it was very difficult to access the dark, poorly lit premises in the commercial hub of Sadar Bazar in the older quarters of the capital.

Firefighters fought the blaze from 100 metres away because it broke out in one of the area's many alleyways, tangled in electrical wire and too narrow for vehicles to access, authorities at the scene said.

While the cause of the fire is not clear, police and fire officials said they were investigating whether a manufacturing unit was operating legally in the crowded area.

A senior Delhi police official said at least 58 people were rescued.

They were "labourers and factory workers sleeping inside this four- or five-storied building," Sunil Choudhary, New Delhi's deputy chief fire officer said.

Fire Services chief Atul Garg said the blaze was put out by 25 fire trucks and that the rescue operation was completed.

About 60 people, including casualties, were taken out of the building, according to police spokesman Arun Kumar Mittal.


Extremely Horrific 

"The fire in Delhi's Anaj Mandi on Rani Jhansi Road is extremely horrific. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones," Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on Twitter.

"Wishing the injured a quick recovery. Authorities are providing all possible assistance at the site of the tragedy," he added.

Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, described the incident as "very very tragic news."

"Rescue operations going on. Firemen doing their best. Injured are being taken to hospitals," Kejriwal wrote on Twitter.

Fires are common in India, where building laws and safety norms are often flouted by builders and residents.

Many factories and small manufacturing units in big Indian cities are often located in old, cramped quarters of the cities, where the cost of land is relatively cheaper.

Such units often also serve as sleeping quarters for poor, mostly migrant labourers and workers, who manage to save money by sleeping overnight at their workplaces.

In 1997, a fire in a movie theatre in New Delhi had killed 59 people. In February this year, 17 people were killed by a fire in a six-story hotel, also in the Indian capital that started in an unauthorised rooftop kitchen.