Four of east Delhi family killed in fire

DILSHAD COLONY Cars block way of fire tenders, locals begin rescue efforts

NEWDELHI:On Friday, 30-year-old Aman Sharma was inside his apartment on the top floor when he first heard the screams for help. Aman soon realised that there was a fire raging that could burn down his entire four-storey building and wasted no time in reacting.

He risked his life to pull two women and a child from the third floor on to his balcony after hearing their cries for help. “One of the women was badly burnt and the skin from her arms was sticking to my hands,” recounted Aman.

But, even Aman had to pull back when smoke began enveloping the topmost floor. He could hear some children screaming for help in the dark, but he was helpless. “Opening the door even for a second would have meant that smoke would have flooded my room too,” Aman said.

By the time, the firefighters made their way to the spot, it was too late. Four members of a family had already died of asphyxiation on the second floor in the massive blaze that left at least five others injured.

The firefighters arrived at the scene 45 minutes after being informed, but locals couldn’t blame them much.

“The fire tenders arrived within five minutes of our call, but the gate they arrived at was locked. When they tried entering through the other gate, their passage was blocked by poorly parked cars on both sides of the road.,” said Hota.

Atul Garg, chief fire officer (Delhi Fire Services), said a path was cleared after fire fighters and locals joined hands to physically move some cars. After that it barely took 15 minutes to douse the flames, but that was not enough to save lives.

Shankar Durani, who was among the first to enter the building after the flames were doused, said: “The four members of the family were found lying motionless in one room. I almost fell after stumbling over one of the bodies in the dark”.

The blaze, officials said, started around 3am in a four-storey residential building in the A-Block of east Delhi’s Dilshad Colony, a neighbourhood consisting mostly of middle-income families.

One such family included that of 63-year-old Vijay Kumar Verma, who has been in the transport business for decades.

Verma lived with his daughter, Mona, son-in-law, Sanjay, and the couple’s three children, Harshu, Kishu and Chiku, aged between four and 12 years on the second floor. Sanjay worked with a medical firm. The family had been living in the house owned by them for the last seven-eight years. Each of the four floors, barring the ground one, consists of two flats.

Since Thursday was Harshu’s 12th birthday, family members had been visiting Verma’s house throughout the day. Verma’s younger daughter, Happy, had decided to stay back for the night. “Tired after the day’s celebrations, the family slept late and were late in waking up and reacting after being informed of the blaze,” said a neighbour.

The blaze was first detected by Devashish Hota, a ground floor resident. Hota had purchased his flat just 10 days ago and was about to go to sleep when he heard sounds similar to that of firecrackers.

“The fire was in the electricity meters installed in the parking lot. Immediately I began waking up the people in the building and asked them to get out through the back gate,” claimed Hota.

With the fire engulfing nine motorcycles parked in the parking lot and then quickly spreading to the upper floors, most occupants moved to their balconies in their bids to escape.

“But Verma’s family were shouting at each other for the keys to the terrace. They probably could not find the keys,” said Hota.

Three of the seven members of the Verma family did manage to make it to the top floor of the house and seek help. The other four members were trapped and screamed for help for a while before falling silent.

“Even the metal handle of the door had turned too hot to touch,” said Aman.

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