Three buildings have collapsed and about 150 shops have so far burned hollow in a massive blaze at Delhi’s Bhaghirath Palace – a complex of electronics shops, assembly units and warehouses – in Chandni Chowk district. The blaze started around 9 p.m. on Thursday and appeared to be extinguished by Friday morning, when another blaze broke out in some stores and has since spread.
Three of the five major buildings affected by the blaze have collapsed, officials said, though no deaths or injuries were reported when the blaze started after stores nearly closed.
“The fire was under control by Friday morning and the cooling process was underway, but by evening it flared up again and became massive again. It has been almost 24 hours since the fire broke out and firefighters are still struggling to extinguish the flames, news agency PTI quoted a senior police officer.
As of 9 p.m. Friday, 20 fire trucks were putting out the blaze, a fire official said. About 40 fire engines have been deployed since last night so far.
The fire broke out in a shop in Mahalaxmi Market and soon spread to neighboring shops selling electrical appliances, officials said. In addition to the smoke, the stench of burning plastic and rubber polluted the air.
“The cause of the fire is not yet known,” Atul Garg, director of the Delhi fire service, told PTI.
Merchants covering their mouths with masks and handkerchiefs waited impatiently to enter their burnt shops to recover what had been left behind by the blaze. Sanjay Kumar, who was sitting in the lane next to one of the affected buildings, said, “I don’t think there is anything left… We suffered a loss of several crores.”
Among those eagerly awaiting the fire being extinguished was Balwinder Singh, who has a shop in the building opposite that of those affected. “As of now, our store is safe. I heard about the fire around 11pm and my father was in the store. He told me our store is safe, but I am here to check,” he told PTI.
Deputy Police Commissioner (North) Sagar Singh Kalsi said that as soon as information about the fire was received, the fire brigade, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the reserve force of police came to the scene.
In a similar incident in September, a massive fire broke out on the top floor of a three-story commercial building, destroying 80 shops.
The traders claimed their cumulative loss was about Rs 400 crore and demanded compensation from the government.
“We have written to the government of Delhi many times to take corrective action in the market but no action has been taken so far. Fire breaks out every five to six months. There is a network of hanging wires everywhere and there is no fire warning system . has been installed. No infrastructure improvement has been made,” said a trader.
“The government should compensate the retailers for the losses they have suffered,” he added.
Meanwhile, the firefighters said weak structures, a shortage of water and narrow lanes presented a major challenge for them to conduct firefighting operations.
In a tweet, Atul Garg, Director of the Delhi Fire Brigade, said: “Chandni Chowk fire. A total of 40 firefighting vehicles and more than 200 firefighters were deployed. Major concern weak structures, shortage of water and narrow track, the building started to collapse. to deposit.” According to data shared by the fire service, the Delhi fire service has attended 40 fire-related calls in Chandni Chowk till 23 November this year.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed his sorrow over the incident and said he is taking up the situation with the concerned district administration.
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