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Delhi's electricals market fire rages on, building may crash

Posted on Dec 15, 08:25AM | IANS

A blaze that broke out in an electricals and electronics goods market in the capital Thursday continued to rage on for the second day Friday. With more than 30 shops already gutted, the old building faces the danger of collapsing, fire service officials said.

The fire was noticed around 5.30 p.m. Thursday at the Bhagirath Palace in Chandni Chowk area of old Delhi. Starting from the second floor, it spread to the fifth floor of the multi-storey building that houses more than 2,000 shops and warehouses of electrical and electronics goods.

"The fire was brought under control on Thursday night but it suddenly sparked off again around 5 a.m. today (Friday) when the fire officials' shift changed," said a shopkeeper.

Delhi Fire Service director A.K. Sharma told IANS that 10 fire engines were battling the blaze and firemen were using over 100-metre long water hoses to douse the flames as the spot was in congested area.

"The building's basement is made up of wooden beams which have become weak and lead to the possibility of collapse. Partial collapses have already taken place inside the building. We are taking all measures to avoid a complete collapse as well," he said.

Sharma said the fire may only be doused by late Friday night or Saturday morning.

A shopkeeper said the fire was ignited by a short circuit in a cable material warehouse at shop number 1810 on the second floor.

"We immediately shut down our shops and called fire and police officials. We also informed electricity officials to cut the power," Udhav Sharda, who runs an electronics shop in Bhagirath Palace, told IANS.

"Thankfully, no one was injured in the incident but items worth crores of rupees were gutted," market association president B.K. Jindal told IANS.

"First we want to stop the fire and will later calculate our losses," he said.

Meanwhile, traders said that repeated pleas to civic authorities to demolish the unauthorised and unplanned construction were not heeded.

"Any fire incident turns uncontrollable in Chandni Chowk as the area is cramped. We are continuing to request the North Delhi Municipal Corporation to check unauthorised constructions and remove encroachments on roads and footpaths, but the authorities don't pay heed to our repeated pleas," Sanjay Bharghav of the Chandni Chowk Traders' Association said.

Subhash Agrawal, RTI activist and resident of Chandni Chowk since the 1950s, said unauthorised and unplanned constructions and very narrow walkways with overhanging electric wires have made Bhagirath Palace prone to fire accidents.

"Thirty years ago the locality was purely a residential colony in the walled city. But now footpaths and wide roads have been encroached by shops and goods dumped by shopkeepers. Such encroachment hinders fire-tenders to reach the site of fires resulting in loss of goods and property," Agrawal added.