Chandni Chowk blaze: Nearly 120 shops gutted, FIR lodged, cooling op continues

Deputy Commissioner of Police (north) Manoj Kumar Meena said the fire has almost died out but in the past 24 hours around 110-120 shops have been affected by the blaze.
Smoke billows out after a massive fire broke out at Marwadi Katra in Chandni Chowk, Delhi, Thursday, June 13, 2024.
Smoke billows out after a massive fire broke out at Marwadi Katra in Chandni Chowk, Delhi, Thursday, June 13, 2024. Photo | PTI

NEW DELHI: The devastating fire that broke out at the Chandni Chowk's Old Katra Marwadi Marke in old Delhi has gutted more than 110 shops, many completely and some partially, even as the cooling process continued till late Friday.

Fortunately, not a single casualty was reported from the incident, yet, a massive loss of property could be easily assessed from the first look of the site. However, one fireman suffered superficial burns during the firefighting operation.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (north) Manoj Kumar Meena said the fire has almost died out but in the past 24 hours around 110-120 shops have been affected by the blaze.

The cops have registered an FIR under sections 285 (Negligent conduct concerning fire or combustible matter) and 337 (Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the Indian Penal Code at the Kotwali police station and begun probing the incident that has probably incurred losses to the traders in tens of Crores. "The cause of the fire is a matter of this investigation," the DCP said.

A senior Fire Department official informed that at least half a dozen fire tenders were still stationed at the place of incident till the time of filing of this report.

DOUSING THE INFERNO

The firefighters had to burn the midnight oil to bring the situation under control.

Even 24 hours later, though the situation was under control, yet, the firefighting operation continued unabated and the firefighters, already toiled for hours, could still be seen atop the buildings and some on the ground, assisting with that long pipe.

The narrow lanes of the locality, like always, caused a little hinderance in making the fire trucks timely reach the place of incident. Apart from the narrow lanes, portion of a couple of buildings also collapsed.

Hanging wires, overloaded circuits, old buildings, water shortage, and narrow lanes everytime created hurdles for the firemen and their equipment to quickly reach the site of the incident.  

Smoke billows out after a massive fire broke out at Marwadi Katra in Chandni Chowk, Delhi, Thursday, June 13, 2024.
Blaze erupts in Delhi's Chandni Chowk, 40 fire tenders deployed, no casualty

Whenever a fire incident is reported from such areas -- even the fire truck is unable to reach immediately to the accident site and the rescue operation gets delayed. The same happened during the Chandni Chowk blaze.

"The structures are very weak," quipped a man standing just next to a fire truck. To counter the shortage of water, the Delhi Fire Service had plugged their trucks all the way from the market till the Red Fort Metro Station.

“Due to the (narrow) lanes, we had to extend our fire hose for more than 300 metres and had to add extra pressure,” an official said. Moreover, the fire department used water bowsers and robots to douse the flames.

The official further said that there were no water sources nearby which added to the problem of refilling the water tanks. He said, “The shops had combustible material which only needs a small spark.” Dangling power lines in the area was also a challenge for the firefighters, the official added.

TRADERS IN DIRE STRAITS

Chandni Chowk, the area from where the incident was reported, is one of the oldest and busiest markets of the country. Getting inspiration from Heritage Street in Amritsar, Punjab, the Chandni Chowk was redeveloped as heritage trail to promote tourism.

However, Old Katra Marwadi Market in Chandni Chowk now gives the impression of a deserted place with some building turned completely black due to the fire while some were reduced to ashes.

The marketplace was shut down due to the incident. The police had maintained a radar for people not to go too close to the ill-fated buildings. Local shopkeepers told this newspaper that the police and fire brigade teams are still keeping traders away from their shops as more buildings could still collapse.

"The fire started from shop number around 1580 or 1581, and within no time it engulfed the entire area. Fortunately, no one received any injuries, else it could have been drastic,” a shopkeeper gazing at his completely gutted shop from a distance said.

The newly elected Member of Parliament from Chandni Chowk, Praveen Khandelwal, also visted the spot to assess the situation and listen to the grievances of the people.

"I had promised during the election campaign that all the electricity wires would be shifted underground. I will start that work at the earliest now...," Khandelwal said.

HEAT TRIGGERING FIRES

As the mercury levels in the city are nearing the 50-degree Celsius mark, the excessive heat is leading to fire incidents which are being reported now on a routine basis. A major jump has been witnessed in fire-related SOS calls.

According to the fire department, the Chandni Chowk blaze was also a result of short circuit in an air conditioner (AC) which spread to other shops. Moreover, due to the intensity of the fire, two buildings collapsed.

A senior DFS official, while speaking to this newspaper, advised people to get the wiring of electrical devices checked and see if it can withstand increased load or not. "As the load increases, it is likely that the wiring may not be able to handle it. Install local MCBs in heavy equipment as they provide immediate tripping," he stated.

As per a data shared by the DFS, 55 people have lost their lives in fire-related incidents while more than 3000 have sustained injuries in the first five months of this year. Sixteen people were killed in fire-related incidents in January, another 16 in February, 12 in March, four in April, and seven till May 26.

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