| A view of the charred houses. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ramgarh, May 8: They forgot their children in their rush to save the petrol they had stolen, and paid the price of their folly with the lives of their families.
Six children were among 10 people burnt alive this morning when petrol stored in a hut sparked a blaze that gutted several adjoining huts in the Turi Tola locality close to the Hindustan Petroleum depot in Ramgarh.
Eleven people were injured and most of them have been admitted to the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), where the condition of three is said to be critical.
Most residents of the locality, which is about 45 km from state capital Ranchi and falls under the Kuju outpost of Mandu police station in Ramgarh, work as labourers in the depot. For the last few years, they have been stealing petrol and diesel from the depot and selling them in the open market.
As the huts are close to the railway tracks, the residents also used to steal petrol, diesel and kerosene from stationary wagons. They stored the stolen fuel in their homes, either in buckets or utensils.
About 7.30 this morning, when one of the residents was preparing breakfast, an uncovered container caught fire. The blaze soon spread to the other huts.
Instead of pulling out their children, the panic-stricken dwellers tried to save the stored fuel. “They had kept petrol in uncovered containers and it appears that some of them tried to run away with the pots. As the containers were uncovered, more petrol spilled over a wider area, spreading the fire,” said Kuju outpost officer-in-charge P. Minz. “I got the information at 8 am. It was too late by then.”
Police sources, however, claimed that six persons died. Minz said residents sent three persons to Ranchi for treatment on their own. “We sent eight persons to RIMS after giving them first aid at a local nursing home.”
The huts of Kaila Turi, Ramesh Turi, Surja Turi, Baliram Turi, Bigla Turi and Jagdish Turi were burnt to cinders. Kaila’s wife Jugua Devi and grandchildren Kranti Kumari and Sawna were burnt alive. Among the others who died were Ramesh’s minor children Pinky Kumari and Vikas, Surja’s grandson Vishal, Jagdish’s wife Phulki and children Amrita Kumari and Pankaj. Six of the children were between one and seven.
“Around 7.45 am, we saw flames and black smoke leaping out of the huts, but before we could understand anything they were reduced to ashes. The police reached here soon. CPI legislative party leader Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Mehta came, too. He gave 150 kg of rice and Rs 1,500 in cash to family members of the victims,” said resident Tapeshwar Turi.
Mehta came down from Hazaribag, about 40 km from the site of the fire.
Teklal Mahto, MLA of nearby Mandu, visited the spot in the afternoon and directed the local block development officer to immediately provide Indira Awas houses, foodgrain and Rs 10,000 to the aggrieved families. He demanded Rs 1 lakh as compensation from the government to the next of kin of each of the dead. Mahto also gave the affected families 150 kg of rice and Rs 1,500 in cash.