Two firemen who rescued 27 people were praised for their heroic performance at the Delhi’s deadliest fire in decades which killed 43 people, prompting outrage that safety regulations were yet again ignored.
The blaze early Sunday ripped through a four-storey building that housed small factory units in the congested lanes of the Old Delhi district while the migrant workers inside were asleep.
Firefighter Rajesh Shukla, who carried out 11 people and was injured in the dangerous operation, said he was shocked by the number of people he found.
“No one in the area informed us that so many people were there in the building, some said there were three or four people trapped inside,” Shukla told the Times of India daily.
“I saw at least 30 people in the room (on the third floor) with most of them sleeping. A few others were dead… We were told that the labourers slept in shifts,” he said.
He added that if the fire brigade had had more information sooner, then “we could have saved more lives”.
On Monday, charred walls and smoke-blackened windows bore a grim testimony to the tragedy that unfolded at the cramped premises.
Locals told AFP that all illegal factories in the area pull down and lock their shutters at night, which gives workers time to flee if police raid the premises.
“But this time it proved fatal for them as a lot of precious time was lost in trying to enter the building,” a local resident said, as officials from the electricity department arrived at the scene.