As casualties mounted quickly, a team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) also arrived at the site of the fire to help in rescue operations.
Hours after the tragedy, the Delhi government ordered a probe into the fire and sought a detailed report within seven days.
“It is a very sad incident. I have ordered a magisterial inquiry into it. Compensation Rs 10 lakhs each to be given to families of those dead and Rs 1 lakh each to those injured. The expense of medical treatment of those injured to be borne by the government,” Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said after visiting the site of the accident.
The fire devastated the third floor of the building and also badly affected the second floor. while the first floor suffered relatively little damage. There were sewing machines and raw materials for manufacturing jackets, fire officials said. Bags, clothes, cardboards and plastic items were also being made in the building.
Delhi Fire Service (DFS) director Atul Garg said the fire started around 5 am in a five storey building where around 60 people were sleeping, most of them contractual labourers and factory workers. All victims were men.
“The fire was big and we pressed in more than 50 fire tenders… Most died of smoke. Sixty-three people were removed from inside the building, dead or alive,” Garg said.
The fire services director also said that they are yet to ascertain the reason behind fire. “Whether the building had firefighting equipment is a matter of probe,” he said. “It was a very old building, not approved in any way.”
Of the two staircases in the building one was blocked by goods. The building also had lot of combustible materials inside. It had no ventilation.
Two firemen also suffered minor injuries in the firefighting operations.
The victims were moved to different hospitals where many of them were declared dead, police said. Many of the bodies have been charred and are yet to be identified. Many others died of suffocation.
“Deaths have been mostly due to smoke inhalation and suffocation,” ANI quoted Kishore Singh, Medical Director of Lok Nayak Hospital as saying.
“The condition of those injured is not serious. They have been kept under observation,” he said.
Of the 15 patients being treated at the Lok Nayak Hospital, one has suffered over 50% burns and is said to be critical. Nine others are also in the burn ward. The others have injuries through smoke inhalation and are critical but stable.
At Lady Hardinge hospital, of the nine dead, doctors said seven likely died due to inhalation injuries and two died of burn injuries.
It is Delhi’s worst fire accident since the Uphaar theatre blaze during the screening of Bollywood film ‘Border’ in June 1997 which killed 59 people and injured over 100.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the fire as horrific. “The fire in Delhi’s Anaj Mandi on Rani Jhansi Road is extremely horrific. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. Wishing the injured a quick recovery. Authorities are providing all possible assistance at the site of the tragedy,” he tweeted.
Union home minister Amit Shah said he has instructed authorities concerned to provide all possible assistance on urgent basis.