‘We had clothes in bulk, everything caught fire’: Lajpat Nagar traders rue losses

Inside the Van Heusen showroom, an employee was going about tidying the premises when he noticed sparks from a portion of the electrical wiring. He quickly alerted three-four people inside the shop to vacate the place immediately. Minutes later, the garment store next door caught fire.

At 10 am on Saturday in Lajpat Nagar’s Central Market, even-numbered shops — as per the Covid unlock protocol issued by the Delhi government for markets — were preparing to open for the day.

Inside the Van Heusen showroom, an employee was going about tidying the premises when he noticed sparks from a portion of the electrical wiring. He quickly alerted three-four people inside the shop to vacate the place immediately. Minutes later, the garment store next door caught fire.

“We were setting things up and cleaning when there was some sparking. It was unusual so I pulled the main switch down and rushed everyone out. Within minutes, flames could be seen from the neighbouring three-storey building — it soon spread to our store. Since our shop also had clothes in bulk, almost everything caught fire,” said the employee.

By 11 am, the fire had spread to more shops and flames could be seen from more than 500 metres away. Hundreds of residents gathered on the street near the spot and alerted buildings adjacent to the shops to vacate. Many owners on the opposite side shut their shops since a rumour of electrical fire had spread.

At the showroom where the fire started, most employees managed to escape from the rear side of the building which had a separate exit. Police, meanwhile, cordoned off the area and set up barricades after boards and displays of the building began collapsing on the footpath.

With the afternoon sun at its peak, firefighters were finding it increasingly difficult to douse the blaze in a short span of time — many had to stop for quick breaks due to the heat.

As the blaze was brought under control three hours late, anxious building and shop owners were seen trying to assess the damage.
Naresh Kumar, whose store was affected, said: “There were already less sales and this will be a big blow. Almost all of our products and stock have been reduced to ashes. We can only calculate the loss once the fire is doused completely. The shops had just opened and we were looking to get back on track.”

“We were unfortunate that the wind direction led to the fire spreading to one of the floors of our building as well. At this point, we do not know how much is lost, but it will be huge,” said Devendar, a businessman, whose store was partially affected by the blaze.

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