New Delhi: More than 100 shops were gutted in a massive fire in the wholesale market of the Bhagirath Palace area in Chandni Chowk on Friday even as the cooling operations are currently underway, police said.
Five major buildings were also affected during the fire-fighting operations, out of which three have collapsed, officials said.
No loss of life or injuries has been reported so far.
Till 7 pm, 20 fire tenders were engaged in dousing off the fire that was brought under control after more than 12 hours of effort, a fire department official said.
According to the fire department, the incident was reported on Thursday at 9.19 pm, following which 40 fire tenders were rushed to the spot.
The fire broke out in a shop in Mahalaxmi Market and soon spread to the adjacent shops of electrical appliances, officials said.
White smoke billowed high in the sky as the toxic stench of burning plastic and rubber polluted the air.
In the morning, 22 fire tenders were working on cooling operations.
“The cause of the fire is not yet known,” Director of Delhi Fire Service Atul Garg told PTI, adding that the fire was under control.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) Sagar Singh Kalsi said as soon as information about the fire was received, the fire department, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and reserve force from police rushed to the spot.
“Every effort was put in to douse the fire. There is no casualty at present. Five major buildings were affected and around 100 shops got incinerated. Of the five affected buildings, three have collapsed,” he added.
Ignoring the intermittent sounds of blasts and policemen warning of boned-out portions of buildings collapsing, dejected traders, who had their noses and mouths covered with handkerchiefs to prevent the stench, waited impatiently to enter their incinerated shops so as to recover whatever was left by the blaze.
A trader, Sanjay Kumar, who was sitting in the lane adjacent to one of the affected buildings, said “Our shop is destroyed. We are waiting for the fire to be extinguished completely but I dont think anything is left… We have suffered a loss of several crores.” Among those eagerly waiting for the fire to die down was Balwinder Singh who has a shop in the building opposite to that of the affected ones.
“As of now our shop is safe. I got to know about the fire at around 11 pm and my father was in the shop. He told me that our shop is safe but I am here to check,” Singh said.
Meanwhile, gathered in the lanes of Bhagirat Palace with dejected looks on their face, traders blamed narrow lanes, poor infrastructure, and inflammable material for fire in the electronic market for the incident and their subsequent loss.
According to traders, the fire broke out in a shop around 9 pm due to a short circuit.
They also accused the authorities of not taking corrective measures to fix the infrastructural problems, which cause frequent fires in the area.
In a similar incident in September, a massive fire broke out on the top floor of a three-storey commercial building and destroyed 80 shops.
Claiming their cumulative loss to be around Rs 400 crore, the traders have demanded compensation from the government.
“The government should compensate the shopkeepers for the losses they have suffered,” a trader said. “We have written to the Delhi government several times for the necessary measures but no action has been taken so far. Fire erupts every five to six months. There is a mesh of hanging wires everywhere and no fire warning system has been installed. No infrastructure improvement has been done,” he added.
The fire officials also alleged that weak structures, shortage of water and narrow lanes posed a major challenge for them to carry out fire-fighting operations.
“Fire in Chandni Chowk. Total 40 fire vehicles and 200-plus fire personnel were deployed. Major concern weak structures, shortage of water and narrow lane, building started collapsing,” Garg had tweeted on Thursday.
According to data shared by the fire department, the Delhi Fire Service has attended 40 fire-related calls in Chandni Chowk this year, till November 23.
Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed grief over the incident and said he is taking stock of the situation from the district administration concerned.
“This incident of fire in Bhagirath Palace market of Chandni Chowk late last night is very sad. Since last night, the fire brigade personnel are working hard to douse the flames. I am taking information about this from district administration,” he tweeted in Hindi.