NEW DELHI: Soni's mother does not agree with officials who hold that 17 people were killed in a blaze that ravaged a firecracker plant here yesterday. She is convinced that 18 died.
For the dead, she said, included her unborn grandchild.
The family of 21-year-old Soni was looking forward to the birth of her first child. Instead, it was asked to identify the body of the pregnant factory worker who died in the fire that gutted a unit producing soundless crackers in Bawana.
"In the fire yesterday, 18 lives were lost, including that of my grandchild. We were looking forward to the birth of Soni's child but everything has been lost," Soni's mother, a factory worker in another unit, said between sobs as she waited outside the mortuary of Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital.
Soni's husband was visiting his village in Sitapur and was on his back after being told about her death, her brother, Babu Ram, said.
"It had only been two days since she had started working at a salary of Rs 6000. We were not even aware that it was a factory of firecrackers," he said.
Ram said Soni had been told that she would be working in a factory where dyes were manufactured.
"She was five months pregnant and should have been resting at this time but poverty forced her to start working," he said.
Ram, who also works in a factory, said they want the owner to be punished.
"We don't want money. We want places where we work to have proper measures for fire safety. Our family has been destroyed as we have also lost other relatives in the fire," he said.
Soni's mother said her daughter's face was unrecognisable and they identified her body after they saw her kurta and the bangles she was wearing.
Soni's sister-in-law Sukhda, 42, died in the fire, too.
Her husband Mahipal was clinging on to the hope that she was alive, till he saw her body this morning.
"She had started working along with Soni in the factory a couple of days ago. They used to go together. We were not aware that it was a firecracker factory and in the two days that she worked there, even Sukhda did not know," Mahipal said.
Sukhda used to work in an iron company earlier, but moved to the firecracker manufacturing unit because the pay was better.
Families of many of the deceased could be seen outside the mortuary as they waited to take the bodies of their loved ones who died in the blaze back home.
The family of Suraj Singh, 22, who was one among the seven men killed in the fire, had come from Unnao to take his body home.
Singh's mother Rajeshwari said she had not seen her son for almost two years since he had started working here.
"I won't get to see him again," she said and broke down.
The grieving mother said they learnt about the incident yesterday through news channels.
"After we saw the news on TV about the fire, we tried calling him on his phone but it was unreachable. We were praying for his safety. We have lost him for ever," she said.
Rajeshwari's elder sister's son Rohit, 19, also worked in the factory, and among those killed/ Singh and Rohit's cousin Roop Prakash was one of the two survivors who managed to escape by jumping off the second floor of the building.
"I wish Suraj and Rohit had also jumped from the building," Rajeshwari said.
Khusna, 47, perished in the fire, too. Her husband Vishwanath, who was also standing outside the mortuary, said he regretted his decision to move from his hometown Sitapur to Delhi.
"It's only been 20 days since we moved to Delhi. She had started working at the factory two days ago. I started work at a factory manufacturing plastic granules. We came here for better opportunities but I did not know that we would lose everything," he said.
Seventeen people, including 10 women, were killed in the fire that ripped through the unit last evening.
Till now, 14 of the deceased had been identified -- Rohit, Sanjit, Sukhda, Khusna, Soni, Suraj, Ravi Kant, Baby Devi, Afshana, Sonam, Reeta, Madeena, Rajjo and supervisor Ajeet Ranjan.
The bodies of two men and one woman are yet to be identified.
The police are still probing the cause of the fire.