Seventeen people were killed and two injured in a massive blaze at a firecracker storage unit in outer Delhi's Bawana industrial area this evening, a Delhi Fire Services official said, even as the city government ordered an inquiry into the incident.
The fire, which started at the storage unit on the ground the floor of a two-storey building ripped through the structure, the official said.
Ten women and seven men were killed, another fire official said, noting that a man and woman were injured. The two - Roop Prakash (in his 20s) and Sunita (in her 40s) - have been admitted to a hospital.
The police said an FIR had been registered under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections relating to culpable homicide not amounting to murder and negligent conduct concerning Fire or combustible material. The maximum punishment under the sections is ten years. The police said they had identified the owners and they will be questioned.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Rohini) Rajneesh Gupta said a person named Manoj Jain had been apprehended. The other partner of Jain has been identified as Lalit Goel. It is to be verified if they were the owners or had taken the premises on rent, he said. One of the injured labourers told police that the firecrackers used to be brought from outside and were only packed at the unit. The police said they were verifying the claim.
While the fire department said the blaze occurred at a firecracker storage unit, the DCP said they are yet to confirm this. He said it was a matter of investigation if firecrackers were being manufactured too.
"Investigation is on. Owners have been identified and will be questioned about the licensing aspect and negligence," said the officer. The Delhi Fire Services received a call about the blaze at the factory, around 6.20 pm and ten fire tenders were rushed to the spot, the fire department said, adding the fire has been brought under control.
G C Mishra, Director, Delhi Fire Service, said it was a firecracker storage unit and the building comprised a basement, ground floor and two upper floors. "One body was recovered from the basement, three from the ground floor and 13 from the first floor. One person sustained fractures after he jumped from the second floor to save himself," he said.
Mishra said the fire was doused by 9.20 pm but search and rescue operations were underway. "We are taking no chance. We don't have a definite number of people who were in the building when the fire broke out," he said. The police said the people were either charred or got choked to death.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguish at the death of people in the fire. "My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. May those who are injured recover quickly," the Prime Minister's Office tweeted quoting Modi.
The Delhi government ordered an inquiry into the blaze even as Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he was keeping a "close watch" on the rescue operations. "very sad to hear abt large no of casualties. Keeping a close watch on rescue operations," he said in a tweet.
Delhi Urban Development Minister Satyendra Jain said an inquiry had been ordered into the incident. "Learnt about a severe fire incident in a private factory at Bawana. Several casualties reported. Monitoring the situation. Ordered enquiry," Jain tweeted. North Delhi Mayor Preety Agarwal rushed to the spot to take stock of the situation.
"The factory falls in the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC) area," a senior NDMC official said. The medical superintendent of Dr Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar Hospital Dr Punita Mahajan said they received a disaster alert which was called off at 11.30 pm.