At around 2:15 am, on Sunday night, fifth floor resident of tower B6 of Gurugram high-rise Tulip Orange, Swati Garg came out of her home. She was enveloped in smoke.
A fire had broken out in the electric shaft on the first floor of the tower B6 at 2 am. Within minutes, the flames had risen to her floor.
The 32-year-old interior designer wasted no time.
Fearing that the electric panel next to her flat would catch fire, she quickly alerted her own family. Her husband Girish rushed out with her four-year-old daughter, so did her mother and a friend who was living with them.
Meanwhile, Swati ran across the floor and knocked the doors of all her neighbours, alerting the families in the four flats on that floor to move to upper floors. She also rushed to the floors above her own flat to alert the other residents.
As residents and their families rushed to safer flats to escape the blazing fire, Girish and Swati lost track of each other.
Recalling the horror of the night, Girish told The Times of India, “We first tried to go downstairs but could not go beyond the third floor. We returned to our flat because we were suffocating.”
They quickly wrapped themselves in wet towels and moved upstairs.
“By the time we reached the eighth floor, I was struggling to breathe. The door of one of the flats opened, and I rushed in with my daughter,” he adds. He was among the many asphyxiating residents the good samaritans on the eighth floor took towards their balcony to help breathe easy.
While Girish and his daughter were safe, there was no sign of Swati. She had rushed to the tenth floor of the building and was struggling to open the gate leading to the terrace.
But it was locked.
When the fire brigade began the rescue operations, they found Swati dead, lying next to the door that led to the terrace around 3:30 am.
She couldn’t call out for help, neither could she climb down. She collapsed next to the locked gate, lost consciousness and died of asphyxiation. Evidence of this was found next to the door where her handprints marred the wall.
The fire was put out at 4:30 am after an hour of operation.
The report mentions how the firefighting team almost took 45 minutes to reach the tower after being alerted. The prime reason being–the nearest fire station was 12 kms away from the tower. This meant that the residents were uncertain about their lives for one full hour before help arrived.
Speaking to the publication, Police commissioner KK Rao said that a case on Section 304 (culpable homicide) was filed at Badshahpur police station against the building infrastructure and its maintenance agency.
Officials added that the fire was caused due to a short circuit in an electricity meter on the first floor. This caused the flames to rise to the tenth floor within minutes. The fire remained contained to the power shaft of the stairwell, which is the building’s only fire exit.
Swati’s mother, who had come to live with them only some time ago, was rushed to the hospital for burn injuries.
Her husband Girish, who has been inconsolable since the incident, said, “Tulip infrastructure, Apple (facility management company) and its managers and officials of DTCP who gave approval are responsible for my wife’s death, and action has to be taken against all of them.”
Swati has been hailed a hero for saving many lives with her quick thinking. It is unfortunate that she couldn’t save her own. Her body was later taken to her hometown Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh for the final rites.
Rest in peace, Swati.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Representational Facebook feature image of building source: City of Joburg