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New Delhi: At least 43 people have died in a factory fire in India's capital New Delhi, with the toll still expected to rise, police told AFP Sunday.
The blaze broke out in the early hours in the city's old quarter, whose narrow and congested lanes are lined with many small manufacturing and storage units.
"We... have since rescued at least 50 people," Sunil Choudhary, New Delhi's deputy chief fire officer, told AFP.
They were "labourers and factory workers sleeping inside this four- or five-storied building," he said, adding that the fire had been extinguished but rescue operations were ongoing.
PM Modi reacts
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday termed the Anaj Mandi fire, which claimed 43 lives, an "extremely horrific" incident and said all his thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones.
"The fire in Delhi's Anaj Mandi on Rani Jhansi Road is extremely horrific. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones," Prime Minister Modi tweeted.
He wished speedy recovery for the injured and said authorities are providing all possible assistance at the site of the tragedy.
"Wishing the injured a quick recovery. Authorities are providing all possible assistance at the site of the tragedy," he said.
Around 62 people were taken out by fire tenders from the building that caught fire in the wee hours of Sunday.
34 dead were confirmed by the Lok Nayak Hospital, 9 by the Lady Hardinge Hospital, police said.
Delhi CM reacts
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also expressed grief over the incident. Taking to Twitter, Kejriwal called the incident "a very very tragic news" and said that firemen were doing their best.
"V v tragic news. Rescue operations going on. Firemen doing their best. Injured are being taken to hospitals," he tweeted.
Soon after receiving the report of the fire, 15 fire tenders were rushed to the spot to douse the fire and to carry out rescue operations. Given the intensity of the fire, 10-12 more fire tenders were sent at the spot.
Speaking to media, Deputy Fire Chief Officer Sunil Choudhary had said: "A fire broke out in a 600 sq feet plot. It was very dark inside. It is a factory where school bags, bottles and other materials were kept."
The officer further said the fire was of "medium category" and had been completely doused.
Mohammad Asim, a local had said, "People called that fire has broken out in the area. The flat was given on rent. It was a short circuit. Fire brigade team and police teams did a great job."
The fire had been completely doused and rescue operations are currently underway.
Fire officials said it was very difficult to access the dark, poorly lit premises in the commercial hub of Sadar Bazar.
The building was filled with school bags and packing material, they said, but cautioned they were still unsure about the cause of the fire.
"All the rescued persons were rushed to the nearby local hospitals, which have already confirmed 30 deaths. Some of the others are also in a serious state," Sadar Bazar's assistant commissioner of police told AFP.
"Most who've died were sleeping when the fire broke out and died due to asphyxiation," the official added.
Many factories and small manufacturing units in big Indian cities are often located in old, cramped quarters of the cities, where the cost of land is relatively cheaper.
Such units often also serve as sleeping quarters for poor, mostly migrant labourers and workers, who manage to save money by sleeping overnight at their workplaces.
Lack of planning and lax enforcement of building and safety regulations often leads to such deadly accidents.
- Inputs from AFP, ANI
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