Water being sprayed on the van that caught fire at Ranchi’s Argora Chowk on Saturday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, April 26: An overcrowded van ferrying a baraat to the wedding venue caught fire this afternoon after a generator on its roof, used to power an on-board music system, leaked fuel, spreading panic among passengers and holding up traffic for an hour on Ranchi’s Argora Chowk.
Though all 20 tribals on board the 12-seater Tata Magic vehicle were rescued, the incident goes to show how safety guidelines are blatantly ignored on Jharkhand roads with the police and the administration doing little to bring such violators to book.
The van, which was at the centre of today’s chaos, was taking members of a groom’s family, mostly women, from Lohardaga to the marriage venue at Chutia via Kathal More and Argora when the freak accident occurred around 1pm.
The groom was not in the van.
Sitaram Toppo, an employee of a sanitary fitting shop at Argora who witnessed the incident, said: “The van was taking a turn at Argora Chowk when I saw flames leaping out from its roof. Before we could raise an alarm, passengers sitting inside the vehicle got alerted and started yelling, prompting the driver to stop. A crowd soon gathered around the vehicle and the passengers were rescued within minutes.”
But the drama did not end there.
Just as all the passengers got down, the van started moving on its own and rammed into the roadside and damaged a food stall.
“After the people were rescued and everyone breathed a sigh of relief, the vehicle began moving and entered the makeshift shop. There was utter chaos and commotion that led to traffic disruption,” Toppo added.
A fire tender from the Doranda fire station reached the spot and brought the flames under control within an hour.
Officer-in-charge of Argora police station P.K. Das said the fire was caused by diesel that had leaked from the generator set that was running on the vehicle’s roof.
“The marriage party was carrying a generator set and two sound boxes on the vehicle’s top. Somehow, diesel started leaking and came in contact with a spark from the generator. The blaze was controlled within an hour and no one was injured. Passengers had enough time to disembark from the van,” he said.
Officer-in-charge of traffic police station Pramod Ranjan said that traffic was disrupted at Argora Chowk, a prominent junction on Harmu bypass road, following the incident.
“We had to divert vehicles towards other roads. No one faced any major problem,” he added.