17 dead as fire breaks out in alleged cracker storage in Delhi

Seventeen people, including 10 women, died after a fire broke out in a two-storey firecracker warehouse in north Delhi’s Bawana Industrial Area on 20 January. The Bawana Industrial Area is under the DSIDC and the area is designated for plastic. While the fire department has confirmed that it was firecracker warehouse, the authorities said if it is true, then it appears to have been an illegal activity.

22 Jan 2018 | By PrintWeek India

The blaze, which started on the storage unit on the ground floor, ripped through the building, killing 13 people on the first floor, three on the ground and one in the basement. The police said two people were injured and were admitted to the hospital.

The Delhi Fire Services officials said they received a call about the blaze at the factory around 6.20 pm and fire engines were rushed to the spot immediately. The police said the victims were either charred or were choked to death.

According to some reports, there is a rubber factory on the second storey above the firecracker factory. GC Mishra, director, Delhi Fire Service, confirmed that it was a firecracker storage unit and the building comprised a basement, ground floor and two upper floors. He also said that there was no fire fighting arrangement in the building.

While the fire was doused by 9.20 pm, search and rescue operations were underway for a long time as the fire department was not sure how many people were there in the building.  

According to a report in The Indian Express, the building owner had procured a licence for a plastic factory but was running a firecracker storage unit instead. The police have lodged an FIR under IPC sections 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter) and 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) at Shahbad Dairy police station.

According to a report in The Quint, factory owner Manoj Jain was arrested and sent to judicial custody. On 21 January, the Delhi Police Commissioner transferred the investigation to the Delhi crime branch.

Delhi Minister Satyendar Jain said that if it was indeed a firecracker factory, it was illegal. “a probe committee has been formed. Strict action will be taken after we receive the report. I don’t think license is provided for firecracker factories in Delhi. If this indeed was a cracker factory, it’s wrong that an illegal factory was being run,” he said.

The Bawana Industrial Area is under the DSIDC and land allotment has been done by Delhi government.

According to Mishra, the gutted building was in probability a recently constructed building. The area was designated only for plastic factories. Only a probe will say if this factory received an NOC certificate. The activity going on here falls under the high hazard category.

The Delhi government has ordered an inquiry into the blaze, even as Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he is keeping a ‘close watch’ on the rescue operations.

“It is a very tragic incident. We have ordered a probe into the incident,” Kejriwal said after meeting the injured people at a hospital. He said the injured will get an ex-gratia of Rs 1 lakh.

According to a Hindustan Times report, property worth several lakhs was also destroyed in the fire. The initial report from the fire cracker factory categorised the fire as a category four blaze, which was not considered serious in terms of magnitude, however, explosions took place inside the factory which resulted in the casualties. (With help from agencies)