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Mystery behind spurt in Capital shanties’ fire unravelled

| | New Delhi
Mystery behind spurt in Capital shanties’ fire unravelled

The early Sunday morning blaze that razed Rohingya refugees’ camp at Kanchan Kunj in South East Delhi’s Kalindi Kunj leaving more

than 250 people homeless has triggered a debate: What causes frequent fire at slum clusters in the Capital?

Though this being first such incident of 2018, the question is important against the background that from March 2017 to March 2018, the Delhi Fire Service received 29,423 fire related calls. During this period, 318 died and another 1,767 sustained burn injuries.

Talking about what causes the fire at slum clusters, Delhi Fire Service chief fire officer Atul Garg told The Pioneer, “The materials used for constructions of slum clusters are highly combustible and produce toxic gasses. Though small in size but large in numbers in a pocket, these clusters are built side by side and back to back in a row. The lanes servicing these rows are hardly a metre in width. Besides poor housing, these areas are also providing space for storage of huge quantities of waste rags, chemicals, plastic, PVC, etc.”

While the Delhi Fire Service does not maintain a bifurcated data on the number of fire calls and deaths reported from slum clusters, these calamities pose a bigger challenge for the fire department.

Garg said, “Moreover, there is lack of communication facilities in the 1,100 JJ clusters, which leads to delay in passing the information about the fire outbreak. By the time the affected JJ clusters can inform the fire brigade, fire spreads to hundreds of jhuggies because of the inflammable material used for construction of jhuggies. Unsystematic layout leads to entire area being gutted in fire in a very short period of time. Wind speed also plays havoc in such situation.”

In Rohingya inferno incident, 11 fire tenders were pressed into service and the fire was doused in three hours. On Monday, the camp dwellers were accommodated in makeshift camps set up by local NGOs.

The Delhi Police on Monday said they are yet to identify the exact cause of the fire at the camp. “We suspect that the fire broke out due to short circuit and spread out in all the 44 jhuggies,” said a senior police officer.

With nothing left, the locals on Monday claimed that it is not the first time that a fire broke out at the camps - the camp, set up in 2012 at the Madanpur Khadar area of Kalindi Kunj, had seen four incidents of fire since 2012, once in 2012, the other incident were reported in 2016, 2017 and on Sunday early morning in 2018.

While the Delhi Fire Services documented the causes of why the fire breaks out at these camps or slum clusters, this is not the first time that homes to the lowest earning members of society have been burnt to ashes.

On 18 March, a fire gutted at least 50 shanties located on the banks of the Yamuna River. Following which the slum dwellers had blocked the ITO Yamuna Bridge for half an hour that lead to major traffic snarl on ITO to Laxmi Nagar road.



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