NEW DELHI – Rescue workers on Saturday searched the ruins of a commercial building in New Delhi that burned down the night before, killing at least 27 people. Officials warned that the toll could rise.
The fire broke out just before 5 p.m. Friday at the four-story building that housed a number of manufacturing facilities that made surveillance cameras. Most of the dead were assembly line workers, officials said.
Videos captured at the scene – in the Mundka district of western New Delhi, the Indian capital – showed smoke billowing from the building’s windows as crowds watched as firefighters rescued people trapped inside.
New Delhi chief fire officer Atul Garg said firefighters initially had difficulty reaching the building because the area was severely congested. About 130 firefighters were dispatched to the scene and the fire was extinguished about five hours after it broke out, he said.
“Because the temperature is almost 45 degrees Celsius” – about 113 Fahrenheit – “there are more incidents of fire happening,” Mr Garg said, referring to India’s current heatwave. “Today we receive almost 160 emergency calls a day.”
The building was crowded with workers and other employees when the fire broke out. About 50 people were rescued from the building, several of whom were critically injured.
Fires kill hundreds of people in India every year, many of them impoverished workers. Investigators often trace the cause to faulty wiring or lax enforcement of building codes. Activists say officials often fail to take safety measures or punish those who break regulations.
At least four newborns died in a fire at a hospital’s maternity ward in downtown Bhopal last year. In 2019, at least 18 people died in a fire at a commercial building in the western state of Gujarat.
The cause of the fire in New Delhi on Friday was not immediately clear. Investigators said Saturday they were looking for the owner of the building and suspect security measures had been breached. Parts of the building had yet to be searched, and officials feared more bodies would be found.
Samir Yasir contributed reporting.
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