Locals turn heroes, risk lives to rescue babies from burning Delhi hospital

The fire out at the Baby Care New Born Hospital in the Vivek Vihar area around 11:30 pm on Saturday and spread to two adjacent buildings. 12 newborns were rescued, but seven of them died

The fire at New Born Baby Care Hospital in east Delhi (Photo: PTI)
The fire at New Born Baby Care Hospital in east Delhi (Photo: PTI)


As firefighters struggled to remove the crowd recording videos outside an east Delhi hospital where a blaze killed seven newborns, a group of locals risked their lives to rescue the babies from the burning building.

The fire out at the Baby Care New Born Hospital in the Vivek Vihar area around 11:30 pm on Saturday and spread to two adjacent buildings.

Twelve newborns were rescued from the facility but seven of them died and five are undergoing treatment at the East Delhi Advanced NICU, officials said. The bodies have been shifted to GTB Hospital for post-mortem.

They were brought out of the building with the help of locals from a window behind the hospital, a senior police officer said.

Recounting his experience, local resident Jitender Singh told PTI, "I got a call about the fire around 11:25 pm and reached the spot by 11:30 pm. Three explosions occurred after I arrived. The first one set the entire building on fire, the second caused an oxygen cylinder to explode."

"The front of the hospital building was burning. So we broke open the windows at the back and went inside to rescue the children," he said.

Singh said he fainted due to the smoke and exhaustion and had to go to a hospital.

"Seven children have died. One death was natural and occurred at 8 pm while six were due to the fire. One child is in critical condition and four others have minor burns," he said.

Abeed, another local, said he witnessed the fire spread.

"I was walking with my family. We live in Shalimar Bagh. When we came across the fire, we informed the hospital staff. At that time, the fire wasn't severe," he told PTI.

Some witnesses also criticised the Baby Care New Born Hospital's response.

Abeed said, "When we saw the fire, we informed the hospital staff that there was a fire on the roof. The staff came outside, made a call and then vanished from the spot."

The Delhi Fire Services (DFS) deployed 16 water tenders to control the blaze that ripped through the three buildings.

Divisional Fire Officer Rajendra Atwal confirmed that three buildings were affected.

Cylinder blasts caused significant damage, destroying an ambulance and a scooter parked outside, he said.

Locals who arrived to help climbed the building from the back and began rescuing the newborns one by one, Atwal added.

Ravi Gupta, another local, said, "Initially, people were scared to get close to the building. They climbed on each other's shoulders to reach the first floor from the back of the building. Wooden ladders were used to evacuate the children one by one."

Sanju Verma, who lives in the area, said firefighters, police and Shaheed Seva Dal members soon joined the rescue operation.

Another local Mukesh Bansal claimed that unauthorised oxygen cylinder refilling was conducted in the hospital building. "We had complained about it to the local councillor but nothing was done. It was all happening under the nose of the police."

However, the rescue operation by firefighting personnel faced several challenges, including clearing the crowd that had gathered at the spot and was recording videos.

A senior DFS official said, "Several people had gathered at the spot and were recording videos of the fire. Many of them even came close to those trying to douse the flames."

He added that people must avoid coming close to areas where a firefighting operation is underway to ensure that those dousing the flames can operate smoothly.

The fire had spread from the hospital to a boutique and a private bank in the next building, and an eyeglass showroom and a shop selling domestic articles in another building. A scooter, an ambulance and a portion of a nearby park had also caught fire, the official said.

"But the locals were standing between the park and the building and recording videos," he added.

Officials said the biggest challenge during such operations is controlling the public.

"Another challenge we faced was that there was no water source and low-hanging electrical wires. We are checking if the building had a fire NOC (no-objection certificate)," said the DFS official.

Police have arrested Dr Naveen Kichi, the owner of the hospital. He had been on the run since the fire outbreak.

Kichi has been booked under sections 336 (act endangering life of personal safety of others) and 304A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code.

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