New Delhi: At least 15 people were killed and more than 34 injured in a fire at a congregation of eunuchs at a community park in East Delhi on Sunday, fire brigade officials said.
However, Delhi Health Minister A.K. Walia, who visited the injured in hospital, put the number of dead at 12, while police said 10 people were killed.
Walia, who visited the Guru Tegh Bahadur hospital, where most of the injured were taken, announced compensation for the victims but did not specify the amount.
The minister also ordered a thorough probe into the incident. “The deputy commissioner (revenue) of east Delhi (J.P. Sharma) has been asked to investigate the incident and file his report to the state government at the earliest,” he told reporters.
The first intimation of the fire at the park in Nand Nagri’s E2 block, where the three-day Akhil Bharatiya Kinnara Samaj Sarvdharma Mahasammelan started Sunday, was received around 6.50 p.m., a fire brigade official said.
According to officials, the blazes started after a tent caught fire following suspected electrical short-circuit.
As many as 2,000 to 2,500 people were understood to have been present inside the community centre when the tent burst into flames, police said.
The tents erected on the grounds of the community hall were completely gutted.
As the fire spread, people ran helter-skelter searching for a safe area but many got trapped in the fire and lost their lives, police said.
The approach road to the park was narrow, which hampered rescue operations as the big fire tenders could not reach the spot to fight the blaze. However, smaller fire tenders were able to get in and battle the flames.
Meanwhile, the eunuchs themselves, aided by personnel of the National Disaster Response Force, the Delhi government’s civil defence, locals and the Nirankari Sevak Samaj, started rescue operations, bringing out the injured and bodies and clearing the debris.
Fire department officials said the organisers had not taken permission from the department.
Ashu, a participant in the event being held in the Indian capital, said eunuchs had started arriving for the event since Saturday evening and were staying at the venue, where a huge marquee had been put up.
Hospital authorities fear the toll could go up further because many of the injured had grievous burn injuries.