A fire-fighting operation in northwest Delhi's Peeragarhi turned deadly after a portion of the building that housed the manufacturing unit of inverter batteries collapsed, killing a 28-year-old fire service personnel and injuring his 14 colleagues.
The accident happened in less than one month of the Anaj Mandi fire that killed 45 people.
Delhi Fire Service director Atul Garg said the blaze started in the basement of the three-storey building in Peeragarhi around 4 am and soon engulfed it.
More than 50 fire tenders and 300 personnel were deployed to douse the fire. But around 6:20 am, when the fire-fighting operation was about to end, a portion of the building collapsed due to an explosion, likely triggered by a fire in the compressor of an appliance in the building, a police official said.
"We were not aware what was inside the building. The fire was completely controlled and the firemen were coming downstairs. There was a fire in the basement and firemen went to douse it. Suddenly, a blast took place leading to a partial collapse of the building," he added.
This explosion jolted the building, which had already become weak due to heat, and led to its partial collapse, trapping four men, including three fire service personnel under the debris.
Garg rued the main challenge often faced by fire service officials is the lack of complete information when an incident is reported to them.
"We had all the resources like JCB but despite available resources, we were unable to utilise them because people were trapped inside and there was a possibility that the other portion would also collapse, which eventually happened," he said.
Plumes of smoke billowed out from the building as the fire brigade personnel battled to contain the blaze.
An eyewitness said several explosions were heard as the blaze gutted down the building.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Outer Delhi) A Koan said a PCR call was received regarding fire in Okaya battery godown-cum-factory.
Teams of Delhi Fire Services, District Disaster Management Authority, National Disaster Response Force and emergency medical services CATS rushed to the spot.
"One fire fighter died and seventeen people -- 14 fire brigade personnel and three workers -- were injured in the fire incident," the DCP said.
Amit Kumar Balyan, the fire fighter who succumbed to injuries at a hospital, was rescued after six hours of intense efforts and admitted to the nearby Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute. Two other fire personnel who were trapped inside the building are out of danger, Garg said.
A senior police official said the Crime Branch will probe the incident.
An official of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation said the factory is located in a regular industrial area, adding that it falls under the jurisdiction of Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation.
Delhi's Industries Minister Satyendar Jain visited the spot and ordered a magisterial inquiry into the matter.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal condoled Balyan's death.
"It is with deep sadness I inform you that one of our firemen was martyred while saving people from fire. Our firemen save other people's lives by putting their lives under extremely risk in difficult circumstances. May his soul rest in peace."
In line with Delhi government's policy, Kejriwal also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore to the kin of Balyan.
Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal also condoled the death of the firefighter.
"Deeply anguished over news of death of fire operator Amit Balyan along with his team members fought bravely to save lives of many people. I salute his bravery My sincere condolences to his family members. All possible assistance to be extended to the injured & bereaved family," he tweeted.