New Delhi: An electrical short circuit appears to have caused a devastating fire that killed at least 43 people in a factory in India’s capital New Delhi, police and fire department officials told.
According to details, the fire broke out in a five-story building in the wee hours of Sunday.
The laborers and factory workers were asleep inside and died due to suffocation, officials said.
“The problem was the smoke — all the windows and doors were shut and there was dense smoke inside,” said rescue team officer.
Local deputy chief fire officer said, “No one could get out. There was an iron door and it was locked and people were brought out only after we broke the door open. It had become a toxic chamber.”
Firefighters battled the fire from 100 yards away because it blazed out in one of the area’s many passageways, tangled in electrical wire and too narrow for vehicles to enter.
The fire started at a factory space near Sadar Bazaar, New Delhi’s largest wholesale market for household goods.
Relatives said many of the victims were migrant workers, Muslim men from the eastern state of Bihar. Local police are investigating whether the factory was operating legally and have detained the building’s owner.
An eyewitness, Mohammad Samar, said some workers had tried to escape from a terrace, but it was locked.
“There are no proper ways to climb or get down, there is no fire safety, there is nothing,” he said, adding that this was not the first blaze at the site, which was a plastic factory that manufactured toys.
He further said a number of small, unauthorized factories had been renting out space in the building, and that the complete lack of safety provisions was widely known.
The fire, which officials say was sparked by an electrical fault, took almost three hours to put out.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the fire “extremely horrific” in a statement on Twitter.