New Delhi, Jan 4, 2019: At least seven people were killed and eight admitted to hospital, some with burn injuries, after an explosion caused a factory in west Delhi’s Moti Nagar to collapse.
According to police, the explosion levelled the three-storey factory where paint coating for ceiling fans was produced. Eyewitnesses said many people working or putting up at a scrapyard immediately next door were among those buried under the debris.
The number of people directly affected in the incident remained unclear. Monika Bhardwaj, deputy commissioner of police (west), said there were at least 18 people in the two structures.
“The dead include a child and the rest are men. These include some people who were occupying a scrapyard located immediately next door. All the dead people, barring one, have been identified. The injured include a woman and the owner, Ankit Gupta,” she said.
“The rescue operation has ended. The municipal corporation has got the standing portions of the building demolished. A few others were rescued without injuries,” Bhardwaj said.
“A case has been registered under sections 287, 288, 337 and 304 (A) of the Indian Penal Code. If the factory is found to be running without a licence, more stringent section 304 will be added,” the DCP added.
Atul Garg, chief fire officer (Delhi Fire Services), had earlier said that at least eight people were rescued by the fire department by 10.45 pm on Thursday and two others were known to be trapped inside. Rescue operations were hampered by the absence of light and fire officials had to arrange for a generator to go ahead with the rescue work.
Local residents, who were the first respondents, put the number of people trapped inside at nearly 25. “There were 13 people working in the factory. A dozen other people were in the scrapyard. These included children who were having dinner at that time,” said Manish Sehgal, a local resident.
Sehgal and the other residents said the factory was owned by a man named Ankit Gupta. “I pulled out Gupta from the debris. He too was badly injured,” said Sehgal.
The factory was operating out of a residential neighborhood of WZ-2 of Basai Darapur in Moti Nagar. It is located along the borders of Sudarshan Park. The DCP said that the legality of the building was yet to be ascertained. “We have to check how it was operating out of a residential colony,” said the DCP.
Palvinder Singh, a local resident, said the neighbourhood had seen some buildings sealed in the last few days — the latest being on Wednesday. “The collapsed factory wasn’t sealed,” said Palvinder.
According to Ayush Gupta, who lives in the area, the explosion took place around 8.45 pm. “It was a very loud sound. I was walking past the building saw the entire structure had collapsed. I ran through the debri-filled stairs to rescue people,” he said.
The fire department said that prima facie the explosion was in a compressor.
Others had also begun rescuing people from the scrapyard. “There was a woman sticking her hand out of the debris. When I began pulling her out, she urged me to save her son. I found her seven-year-old son some distance away. He was in a better condition than his mother,” said Sadanand Jha, a local businessman.
Rescuers recounted finding people unconscious. These included many women and children. “We used torch light to navigate the debris and find people trapped inside. Then we loaded them on bedsheets and brought them out. It was a tough task bringing them out through the debri-filled stairs,” said Vikram Gupta, who lives in the neighbourhood.
Outside, police officers waited in their vehicles, rushing the rescued people to the Acharya Bhikshu Hospital and DDU Hospital. Ambulances arrived later, said eyewitnesses.
Local residents said that this was the second such collapse in the neighbourhood in the last few years. “Four-five years ago, there was another blast in a boiler in another factory in the neighbourhood. It left many casualties,” said Vikram Gupta.