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At least 43 killed in ‘horrific’ factory fire in India’s capital

At least 43 killed in ‘horrific’ factory fire in India’s capital

AFP
New Delhi
At least 43 people were killed on Sunday in a devastating fire that ripped through a bag factory in the cramped, congested old quarter of the Indian capital New Delhi, trapping scores of workers who were sleeping inside.
The blaze was the worst in Delhi since 59 movie-goers died in a cinema in 1997, with the city’s poor planning and enforcement of building and safety regulations often responsible for such deadly incidents.
Tearful relatives spoke of receiving desperate calls from factory workers from around 5:00am (23:30 GMT) pleading to be freed from the inferno in the dark, poorly lit premises in the commercial hub of Sadar Bazar.
The four-storey building was home to a series of manufacturing units producing items including schools bags and packing materials which only worsened the spread of the fire, officials said. Locals said the factory also made purses.
“Most of the casualties happened because of suffocation,” witness Mohammed Khalil told AFP. “After the fire, people didn’t have any way to get out and I believe many were asleep and because of the smoke, they got suffocated.”
Outside a nearby hospital morgue, anxious relatives and friends gathered to identify the bodies.
Naushad Ahmad, was desperately looking for his friend who remained missing, unable to reach him on his mobile phone.
“There was only one exit and entrance to the building, with all the electricity meters installed at the main door... People didn’t get a chance to escape.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that the fire was “extremely horrific”, as state and national authorities said they would offer financial assistance to the victims’ families and to survivors.
Sajjamuddin Ahmad spent two hours searching for his father-in-law and brother-in-law among the bodies and injured before discovering they were dead, he told AFP.
“I don’t know whether they are alive or dead,” Noorjehan Bano, whose father and brother-in-law worked and lived in the factory, told AFP outside one of the hospitals.
Families of the victims said they were mostly migrant workers who had come from Bihar, one of India’s most impoverished states. Some of them were paid just 1,000 rupees ($14) a month, they added.
Locals had called the police and emergency services as the blaze lit up the early morning sky, but firefighters struggled to reach the victims amid the narrow lanes.
Police and fire officials said at least 58 others were rescued.