Authorities said an electrical short circuit appeared to cause a fire that killed at least 43 people in a factory in central New Delhi early Sunday. Relatives of the workers who were trapped inside identified the dead from photos on police officers’ phones.
The fire broke out minutes past 5 am local time when about a 100 people, mostly workers of a bag-making factory operating in the building, were sleeping inside, CBS News’ Arshad Zargar reports.
Assistant New Delhi police commissioner Anil Kumar Mittal said that “the fire appears to have been caused by electric short circuit,” adding that authorities were investigating whether the factory was operating legally.
The building’s owner, Rihan, who goes by one name, was detained on suspicion of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Mittal said.
Firefighters had to fight the blaze from 100 yards away because it broke out in one of the area’s many alleyways, tangled in electrical wire and too narrow for vehicles to access, authorities said.
“Most who’ve died were sleeping when the fire broke out and died due to asphyxiation,” Sadar Bazar’s assistant commissioner of police told AFP.
A resident of the area, Mohammed Naushad, said he was woken by people wailing at around 4:30 a.m. He went outside to find smoke and flames shooting out of a building near Sadar Bazaar, New Delhi’s largest wholesale market for household goods. Inside, he found the fourth floor engulfed in flames. One floor below, he saw “20 to 25 people lying on the floor.”
“I don’t know if they were dead or unconscious, but they were not moving,” Naushad said.
He said he carried at least 10 people out of the flames on his shoulders and into the arms of emergency responders.
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SOURCE: CBS News, The Associated Press