Recovering from the massive loss of seeing their homes burnt to ashes, victims of the Damu Nagar inferno spent the day with the numerous volunteers flooding the disaster zone for helping them out. Local residents helped victims with blankets, clothes and kitchen utensils.
Numerous temporary structures have been erected at the disaster site to house the victims of the tragedy. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Numerous tents and temporary structures were also erected in nearby grounds to accommodate the homeless victims. However, most victims chose to stay back at their burnt-down homes in the hope of being at the receiving end of the assistance and also to help the police and fire officials with the investigation.
Help has come in from nearby residents and political parties as well as police officials
Fire officials who are investigating the matter said that over 100 cylinders have been removed from the site, most of which were destroyed in the fire, or leaking, to prevent any further chance of fire outbreaks.
Help for children
Many of the volunteers were also collecting books and study material for the children of the area, since most of the kids will start going to school in a day or two.
"They are not asking for more and even if the next volunteer is asking them to take any food article or blankets or clothes, they are directing us to other houses which haven’t got relief yet. Though people here are poor, they have a sense of dignity and respect the help that they are getting," said a volunteer distributing food to the victims.
At the same time, volunteers from the BJP, Congress, RSS and Bajrang Dal started medicine and food camps for the victims around the clock so that their basic necessities can be fulfilled. While temporary tents were erected at Lokhandwala Foundation School ground and in two of the other BMC schools nearby, most residents chose to stay in their broken-down homes.
Early morning at Damu Nagar where the fire took place. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Savita Doke, a resident of Damu Nagar who was previously covered in mid-day for completing her MBA despite all odds (she’s the daughter of a ragpicker) said she had started working only two months ago. But the saving grace is that her documents are still with her college authorities, so they remained safe.
"After the blast, many of the victims went to the shelters but came back in the morning because none of us knew the schedule of the surveys that were to be conducted by civic authorities. Help is coming in from every corner as of now, but none of the politicians or fire officials are confirming what will happen to our homes. Whether we will be provided with a permanent shelter or moved somewhere else is still unclear," said Doke.
Volunteers staying in nearby localities also donated bamboo poles to the victims for erecting make-to-do sheds. “A person readily gifted over 5,000 bamboo poles, we filled them in trucks and got them to the site. We distributed them and even helped the residents erect their sheds so that they could at least sit here peacefully,” said Taiyyab Sheikh, who had helped the residents locate their children on Monday.
Fire officials said that it was difficult to douse the fire due to the continued and non-predictable blasts. “We have recovered as many as 100 cylinders from the site, many of which have already burst, and others were leaking. Even while our fire fighters were dousing the fire inside, cylinder blasts were taking place randomly. We didn’t want any more tragedies to take place, that’s why all the cylinders were collected and sent to the respective gas companies,” said a fire official.
Talking to mid-day, forest officials confirmed that the slums of Damu Nagar were actually encroachments on forestland, which came under the ambit of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. “More than 50 per cent of the area was covered by illegal shanties. We were conducting an inquiry on the illegal shanties and were slated to demolish them. But before we could do anything, this incident took place,” said a senior forest official.
“Our main focus is to get the details about the losses and also give relief to the victims. As of now, no orders have come regarding the encroachment or displacement of the residents. We are personally taking details of all the families to create a database,” said RN Jejurkar, Range Forest Officer of SGNP.