A cluster of 60 hutments in north-east Delhi’s Gokulpuri turned into a death trap for seven, including five children, early Saturday morning when a fire at the entrance of the settlement cut off their escape, sealing their fate. Having probably started from a heap of trash, the blaze spread across the entire area with people – jolted out of sleep – scrambling to get away in the dark as the power went off. Four people suffered burns.
The fire department received a call around 1am and it took them around 2-3 hours to completely douse the fire. Thirteen fire tenders were rushed to the spot and cooling operations continued till noon. The cause of the fire is still being investigated but prima facie it appears it started from that trash heap which had inflammable material.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal reached the slum cluster by noon and announced compensation for the victims – Rs 10 lakh for the next of kin of each adult who died, Rs 5 lakh each for families of the children who died and Rs 25,000 for each shanty that was gutted.
In this instance, since the fire started at the front and there are buildings at the rear, people found it difficult to get away. The lanes are anyway narrow and congested. The flames fed on two heaps of trash – one of tyres and discarded rubber material and the other of cardboard stacks – posing a big challenge to the firefighters. “Rubber flames not only rise quite high, but are also toxic,” said Shukla.