Chandni Choke

Evening

Two buildings with 70 shops gutted Shopkeeper uses cable to jump to safety Blame game begins.

Fire gutted two buildings in the electrical goods market of Bhagirath Palace in Chandni Chowk on Thursday. No one was injured and 22 fire tenders took more than three hours to douse the flames.

The blaze drove a shopkeeper to jump off a four-storey building (No. 1810), but he survived as he used hanging electricity cables to slide down, police said. Power supply to the area was snapped soon after the fire broke out, officials said.

Sixty to 70 shops were destroyed in the fire that broke out in buildings 1810 and 1811.

Though the exact cause of the fire has not yet been ascertained, officials suspect a short-circuit. Others pointed to chemicals stored in the buildings.

The Fire department said the blaze started at 5.15 pm in a godown, belonging to electrical firm Allied Agencies, on the third floor of building 1810. The PVC wires stored in the buildings fuelled the fire.

Fire officials said the congested lanes hampered the movement of fire tenders, delaying rescue and relief operations. The fire tenders were parked near Gurdwara Sis Ganj and the water hoses were pulled through the narrow lanes to reach the two buildings. The buildings were at least 400 metres from where the fire tenders were parked.

Shopkeepers remained tense as they feared that the gutted buildings would collapse.

A shopkeeper, Devesh Kumar Jain, said: "The fire spread to the upper floors of the neighbouring building (No. 1811). My friend was trapped inside, but he managed to climb down with the help of a wire."

Till late night, firemen were still trying to find their way into the buildings that were full of smoke.

DCP (North) Sindhu Pillai said: "The fire is under control. The building is an old one. Our officials will get inside and probe how it started. Reaction of the chemical substances in godown may have triggered the fire."

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