The audience thought the smoke was part
of the special effects
of the victims in Friday's fire at a Delhi cinema house suffocated
police and fire brigade sources said most of the victims died
of asphyxiation when they were trapped in thick smoke and intense
heat generated by the burning of about 50 cars parked right below
the Uphaar cinema hall where a transformer
burst, causing the fire.
death toll was confirmed on Saturday morning at 60, with 41 bodies
lying at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and 19 at
the Safdarjung hospital. Eleven people are battling for life at
the AIIMS intensive care unit.
police arrested four Uphaar cinema managers -- R K Sharma, A S
Chowdhry, K L Malhotra and N S Chopra -- on charges of negligence
on Saturday morning. The police have secured remand for the managers
as part of the inquiry being conducted by the deputy police commissioner
(south), Additional Police Commissioner Maxwell Pereira said.
The fire brigade is conducting a parallel inquiry.
inquiries will cover possible criminal negligence on the part
of the civic authorities and the theatre management in ensuring
safety norms in the building that housed the cinema hall. Uphaar,
which is located in the posh Green Park area of south Delhi, can
seat 1,200 people.
brigade personnel said about 50 fire tenders fought the flames
for about an hour before it was put out. They admitted they took
about half an hour to reach the theatre because of dense peak
injured said they began to feel suffocated around 1645 hours when
smoke started entering the cinema hall through the ventilators.
This was followed by unbearable heat. Uphaar is located on the
first floor of the five storeyed complex, just above the parking
struck when the transformer in the parking lot burst, setting
afire the vehicles parked there.
of those killed were watching Border from the balcony area; spectators
in the lower stalls managed to flee.
of the survivors said the audience initially thought the smoke
collecting inside the hall was part of the special effects in
the movie which was then showing a war scene. The film is based
on what happened at Longewala in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
had only recently been renovated and its sound system modernised.
There was no damage to the screen or to the seats, but the parking
lot was completely gutted.
fire brigade personnel arrived on the scene, local residents,
shopkeepers and those shopping in the major markets in the Green
Park and Yousuf Sarai areas broke all the theatre's glass doors
and windows, and rescued many of those trapped inside.
people jumped from the balcony into the hall below, not finding
any escape route in the balcony area. One rescuer said a woman
carrying a child jumped from the lobby window into the street.
He said he caught her baby, saving the child from injury. At least
three people jumped from the second floor staircase window into
the street below to escape the fire.
said the police reached the cinema hall within ten minutes and
joined the rescue operation. Police officers said at least 48
police control room vehicles were summoned from all over the capital
as no ambulance was available to carry the dead and injured to
of those killed in the fire were declared dead on arrival by the
doctors. Almost all the bodies bore no signs of burns or other
injuries, confirming that the victims had died of suffocation.
bodies lay on the floor in the AIIMS casualty ward where people
poured in crying. Police jeeps were being used late in the night
to take the bodies home after their relatives had identified them.
Sidhu, director at a foreign bank, sat shell-shocked in a corner
of the AIIMS hospital. He lost six members of his family and three
friends in the fire. Among the dead were his wife and two children,
his sister and her two children, his best friend, his wife and
tragedy left many devastated as a family outing turned into a
the dead were Captain M S Bhinder -- who won two show jumping
gold medals at the National Games last week -- his wife and four-year-old
son. Captain Bhinder was second-in-command of the 61st cavalry
and secretary of the Polo Club.
Uphaar cinema tragedy has amplified the concern of fire brigade
authorities that 50 per cent of fires occur due to faulty short
circuits and wirings.
sources said there were 398 deaths in 1,500 incidents in the capital
during 1996-97. Half of the fires were due to electrical faults
and substandard equipment. Property worth Rs 500 million were
destroyed in Delhi.
reasons for fires were improper use of basements in a majority
of buildings besides improper installation of diesel generation
sets and careless handling of inflamable objects.
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