16 May New Delhi fire tragedy puts fire safety back on the agenda for India
A fatal fire that killed 27 people in India’s New Delhi has put fire safety back in the spotlight.
The fire swept through an office building on Friday 13th May with more than 70 people inside at the time. The fire is believed to be one of the worst that India has seen since 2019.
Witnesses to the blaze said they saw people jumping out of windows to escape, and whilst 27 people have been confirmed as dead there are still many others missing.
A local official, Jogi Ram Jain, said preliminary reports suggested a short circuit had caused the fire and that the building did not have the proper fire safety certification.
Fires are increasingly common in India, with building safety laws often ignored by builders and residents. As a result, fire safety has been a hot topic since the blaze broke out.
The Mundka building, where the fire broke out, is believed to be missing standard fire safety requirements including no fire evacuation plan. An inquiry by the North MCD found no sanctioned plan and the building was operating a factory without licence; similar to the building in North Delhi’s Anaj Mandi area, where a fire in 2019 killed 43 people.
After the devastating fire in Anaj Mandi in 2019, India officials put together a plan to tackle the issue of illegal industrial activities in residential areas, and also to tackle the lack of fire safety measures. Two panels were formed after the National Human Rights Commission took suo motu cognizance of the matter.
The first panel, a special task force, was formed by the ministry of housing and urban affairs (MoHUA). The second, an interdepartmental committee, was headed by the chief town planner of the South MCD. The committee submitted the action plan in 2020, and the special task force gave its recommendations in 2021. However, both plans have not been implemented yet according to officials.
As officials continue to investigate Friday’s fire in New Delhi, fire safety is expected to be discussed further and stronger measures put in place to prevent tragic incidents like this happening again.