NEW DELHI, JUNE 29 -- At least three persons died and more than 100 were injured here today when flames and fumes swept through a high-rise office building that recently had been declared a fire hazard. It was the third major blaze in the capital in the past week.
Two men jumped to their deaths from windows as onlookers watched in horror. About 300 people were rescued from the roof of the burning 12-story Ansal Bhavan building, which housed international airline offices and other businesses, including a British manufacturer of firefighting equipment.
Many people escaped by inching their way across a rickety rope-and-bamboo bridge hastily strung from an adjacent construction site to the roof of the burning building, The Associated Press reported. A construction crane was used to rescue those trapped near windows on lower stories as flames and smoke cut off all exit points from inside.
Air Force helicopters arrived on the scene, plucking six women from the roof. But the helicopters were called off by angry firefighters. "We had the fire under control . . . but then the helicopters fanned the flames, and the fire spread," chief fire officer S.K. Dheri told reporters. "It took us over two more hours to bring the fire under control."
About 300 firefighters, using 45 fire trucks, fought the blaze for 5 1/2 hours.
The building was one of 200 high-rises recently identified by the fire department as "fire hazardous," the United News of India reported. "Fires in high-rise buildings should be fought from within," said Dheri, "but this building had no internal sprinkler or other safety devices of its own. It was like another Siddharth Hotel," referring to a major hotel fire here last year that killed 37 persons, mostly foreign tourists.
With temperatures reaching over 110 degrees, fires, mainly springing from short circuits and overload of the antiquated city power supply, have become a regular feature in the capital. Last week, a fire at a wholesale market killed four persons, and a blaze in the city's central power supply plant at Indraprastha destroyed three out of its five units.
Another fire raged through the squatters' colony of Shakarpur this afternoon, wiping out 200 slum huts. There were no reports of casualties.