Deadly fire engulfs Delhi firecracker factory

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At least 17 people were killed Saturday in a fire at a factory complex in New Delhi, according to a spokesman for the Delhi Fire Department.

“There are 17 casualties and one person was injured when he tried to jump out an upper-story window,” department spokesman G.C. Mishra said.

“We have managed to douse the fire and cooling operations are on,” Mishra added.

Another fire official, K.C. Gupta said a dozen fire engines fought the blaze, which occurred in the Bawana industrial section of the Indian capital, for three hours. Despite the concerted effort, the building was gutted.

Firefighters were conducting search and rescue operations, he said, believing that some people could be alive beneath the rubble.

Fire Chief Atul Garg said the fire swept through a plastics warehouse, a firecracker storage unit and an oil storage container, but that all the casualties were in the plastic factory.

Death by fire

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his grief via Twitter.

“Deeply anguished by the fire at a factory in Bawana,” he wrote. “My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. May those who are injured recover quickly.”

Delhi Government Minister Satyendra Kumar Jain also commented via twitter

“Learnt about a serious fire incident in a private factory at Bawana. Several casualties reported. Monitoring the situation. Ordered enquiry (sic),” the minister tweeted.

Deadly fires are not uncommon in India where fire protection codes are often limited and poorly enforced where they do exist. A lack of fire escapes is just one of the common problems. A deadly blaze in Mumbai claimed 14 lives at the end of December

About 17,700 people died in accidental fires in India in 2015, according to the latest data available with the National Crime Records Bureau. One of the worst fires in the past 25 years occurred at the Uphaar Cinema in Delhi in 1997. That blaze killed 59 people and left 103 injured.

The cause of Saturday’s fire is under investigation but officials believe it started on the ground floor and then spread to the first floor and the cellar.

bik/rc (AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters)