‘Only one exit, elders trapped'

Officials said the fire started around 7

*13 killed, over 45 injured in East Delhi blaze.*Minister says short circuit the cause.*Police say NOC was not required*

Thousands of eunuchs had travelled to Delhi from across the country to pray for the "unborn" and meet old friends at a once-in-five-years event. But this 'Kinnar Sammelan' turned tragic as the tent at the Nand Nagri community hall caught fire on Sunday evening, killing at least 13 of them and injuring more than 45, officials said.

Eyewitness said the fire started around 7 pm. Many said they heard a loud sound and saw the roof of the tent on fire. A few also said they heard two loud blasts, as LPG cylinders in the cooking area near the tent burst.

Vana, an eyewitness, said there was only one entry/exit point and as the fire spread, many were trapped inside.

Maya from Nashik had been searching for her daughter. "This was the first day of our 10-day sammelan. I was with old friends in the tent, when I heard a noise. When we looked up, the tent was on fire. The mattresses that were spread out also caught fire. Then the cylinders burst and everyone panicked. In the melee, my daughter got left behind. When I went back, I couldn't find her," said Maya.

According to witnesses, the ambulance and the fire service arrived half-an-hour after the incident. "I haven't been able to find my sister since the incident. No one has been co-operative with us. Mostly, older kinnars were trapped inside," said Nirmala.

Majnu, who had come in from Kerala, said: "This is an auspicious event. We pray for the well-being of the unborn and children. Our prayers are very powerful and are heard by the gods. This is something all of us look forward to. Such meets happen after a gap of five years."

... contd.

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