Three workers, two of them women, were killed after a fire broke out at a metal bath fittings manufacturing and packaging factory in east Delhi’s Jhilmil Industrial Area near Vivek Vihar Phase 2 Saturday morning.

Police identified the three dead as Manju Devi,50, Sangeeta Devi,46, and Shoaib Ali,19.

Delhi fire department officials said around 15 people working in the unit were trapped by the fire that broke out around 9.20am — the building only had a lone exit door in the front. The factory did not have a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the fire department and no firefighting equipment was found in the place, chief fire officer Atul Garg said.

Around 35 fire tenders were used to douse the flames. Except for the three who perished in the fire, all others were rescued by firefighters and police personnel. The firefighting and rescue operation continued till 5.30pm, even as the cooling exercise continued till late night.

“The bodies of the two women were found on the second floor. The man was lying dead on the third floor. All of them died of asphyxiation after inhaling the toxic smoke. None of them had burns on their bodies,” Garg said.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the spot with Delhi home minister Satyendar Jain and said the government will provide a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the dead persons.

According to Garg, the building’s four floors and basement were used to manufacture and package metal water taps. The factory used to open at 9am daily and employed about 60-70 workers.

“The factory had just opened Saturday; not many had arrived when the fire broke out on the first floor due to a short-circuit. The presence of packing material — cardboard, plastics and rubber items — made the fire spread quickly and engulf the entire factory and its adjoining building,” Garg said.

The factory’s 28-year-old supervisor, Pradeep (single name), said that most workers were rescued, Manju, Sangeeta and Ali were trapped as the stairway was filled with smoke.

Deputy commissioner of police (Shahdara) Meghna Yadav said police have registered a case of causing death by negligence against the factory owner. “The factory owner has claimed to have a valid licence from the civic agency concerned for running the factory and got it renewed around six months ago. We are yet to verify his claims since he has to produce the licence and other documents,” Yadav said.

But Ranen Kumar, deputy commissioner, factory licensing department of East Delhi Municipal Corporation, said, “The licence of the factory had expired and it was not renewed. The factory was operating in an area of 110 sqm and a fire NOC is not required for a factory of an area less than 250 sqm as per norms.”

Narrow lane makes operation difficult

According to Garg, dousing the fire was difficult and around 60 firefighters were deployed to fight the blaze. Garg said the lane in which the factory was located was narrow and several vehicles and pushcarts were parked there, making it difficult for fire tenders to get through.

“We had to clear the lane and that took time. The lane was so narrow that only one fire tender could pass at a time. There was no space to reverse the vehicle. The other fire tenders were parked on the road and we had to use long pipes to reach the factory,” Garg said.

Another fire officer said the factory’s width was around 60 feet and it had no ventilation or windows in the rear. “Initially, we only had the option of hosing the building from the front. But since the fire was mostly in the rear and the water was not reaching there, we had to drill holes in the rear wall and adjoining buildings to hose down the blaze,” the fireman said.

In January 2018, 17 people — 10 women and seven men — were killed in a blaze at a firecracker storage unit in outer Delhi’s Bawana Industrial Area.

First Published: Jul 13, 2019 20:59 IST