New Delhi: There was an eerie silence hanging over the blue-coloured four-storey building in Delhi’s Shastri Park Friday afternoon, hours after six people suffocated to death in a massive fire that was triggered by a mosquito repellant. The youngest victim was one-and-a-half-years-old.
Police say toxic fumes were released when a mosquito coil fell on a mattress during the night. A subsequent fire caused the deaths. The building, which housed 15 persons, had no fire escape.
Among the six who died include five tenants – a couple from Kanpur and three rickshaw pullers – and the toddler, Hamza, belonging to the building’s owners.
The house is owned by 46-year-old Akbar Ali and his brothers, Anna Ali (48), Asgar Ali (40), Azmat Ali (39), Haseen Ali (36) and Wajid Ali (45), all of whom have been living there since 2010. The second and third floors were occupied by tenants. Its owners, who run a Shastri Market garment shop, were using the fourth floor as warehouse.
According to Akbar, the Kanpur couple who lived on the building’s third floor had shifted last month, while the three rickshaw pullers moved in only last week.
Family members ThePrint spoke to said the fire started on the building’s ground floor and tore through the levels above.
Akbar, who was on the ground floor when the incident took place, said he was alerted to the fire by his sister-in-law Sumaiya Begum, Hamza’s mother.
“I immediately rushed inside the room and brought out the children — 19-year-old Soni and one-and-a-half-year old Aram. Sumaila kept claiming that Hamza was also in the room. But by the time I could get to him he was dead,” Akbar told ThePrint.
Akbar also said that his brother and Hamza’s father, Azmat, rushed those injured to the nearby Jag Pravesh Chandra Hospital.
“I woke up to smoke all over the room. I was on the 2nd floor. I ran out of the house with my children and rushed to the door. There was very low visibility and even the door was hot,” 38-year-old Aliya (identified by her first name), Akbar’s sister-in-law, told ThePrint.
Talking about Hamza, her nephew, Aliya said, “I did not know he was inside. The room was full of smoke. There was nothing visible. I wish I could have saved him.”
Joy Tirkey (DCP, Northeast Delhi) released a statement confirming that a PCR call was received Friday morning at 8am to inform about the fire at Mazar Wala Road’s Macchi Market in Shastri Park.
“Police rushed to the spot and found that the injured had been taken to Jag Pravesh Chandra Hospital. The incident involved nine people. According to the investigation, a burning mosquito coil fell on a mattress at night. Inmates suffered from respiratory distress and eventually died due to the toxic fumes. Further investigation is on,” the statement read.
Two other victims of injuries are currently being treated at the hospital.
Asgar and Azmat, Akbar’s brothers, were also brought to Shastri Park Police Station to be interrogated. The bodies were sent to the hospital for a postmortem.
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