Delhi: Nightmare for 50 girls as blaze spreads in hostel, some find themselves locked inside rooms

Officials said rescue attempts were initially hampered as the doors of the girls' rooms in the basement and first floor were locked from the outside.

A tragedy was averted as 50 girls were evacuated after the hostel they were staying in caught fire in the early hours of Wednesday. The incident took place in West Delhi’s Janakpuri.

According to Delhi Fire Services (DFS), which rescued the girls, the source of the blaze was traced to an electric meter board panel in the basement, where around 10-15 girls were staying — in violation of the building bylaws.

“The blaze broke out at the Kaveri Girls’ hostel and was doused within 15 minutes. It appears there was a short circuit in the electricity meter. No case will be registered,” DCP (West) Monika Bhardwaj said.

Officials said rescue attempts were initially hampered as the doors of the girls’ rooms in the basement and first floor were locked from the outside.

Satpal Bhardwaj, Additional Divisional Officer of Dwarka fire station, said, “As per the norms, the basement is supposed to be used for storage purposes. But in this case, 10-15 girls were staying there. There was just one usable staircase leading to the first floor, and it was engulfed in smoke. But we did find another staircase in the basement, which was made of iron. As the door leading to the nearest exit was locked, we had to break it open.”

Officials said one girl even jumped from the first floor and landed on a porta cabin housing the security guards, before firefighters reached the spot.

“Six girls were taken to a nearby hospital due to problems caused by smoke inhalation. Two of them were discharged after being given first aid,” said Chief Fire Officer, DFS, Atul Garg.

Hostel owner Usha Malik, however, denied that exit doors were locked from outside.

The fire department said they received a call about the blaze around 3 am, after which four fire tenders were rushed to the spot. The firefighters reached the spot in three minutes.

By then, the smoke had engulfed the building and started to seep into the hostel rooms, suffocating the girls. Firefighters had to climb to the terrace and break open the locks of the door to make sure smoke cleared out from the building.

Officials said electrical fittings were also installed along the staircase, further endangering the lives of the occupants. Additionally, there were no fire safety exit signs or emergency lights, which meant firefighters had to operate in darkness.

Officials also pointed to the lack of internal fire safety mechanisms, like water hydrants, and said firefighters had to depend on water hoses attached to fire tenders. “There were no fire extinguishers; security staff was not trained in basic firefighting techniques,” Satpal Bhardwaj said.

Fighting fire

March 24: 20-25 people evacuated by DFS when a fire broke at AIIMS Trauma Centre

March 10: Father, daughter rescued from burning car at Akshardham flyover. Wife, two other children died

May 23: 30 persons rescued after fire broke out at computer market in Nehru Place

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