Four days after a massive fire gutted a footwear factory in Narela, killing a security guard, rescuers on Thursday recovered a second burnt body, that of a missing labourer.
The first victim’s body — identified later as that of security guard Mangal Mandal, 32 — had been recovered after a 14-hour search on Sunday.
Police identified the second victim as Hardev, 45. “His body was burnt badly, but we have identified him from a kada (bracelet) on his right hand,” said Gaurav Sharma, deputy commissioner of police (outer north district).
Hardev and Mandal were the only two men inside the three-storey factory when the fire had broken out around 12.45am on Sunday.
Mandal’s body was found around 3pm on Sunday near the terrace gates of the building, suggesting that he had made a failed attempt to escape.
But Hardev couldn’t be traced, prompting investigators to suspect that he may have escaped the burning building and gone into hiding to save himself from any probe. His mobile phone was also found to be switched off and that further fuelled speculations of Hardev’s escape.
However, when Hardev remained missing till Wednesday, his relatives approached authorities after which a sub-divisional magistrate ordered that the gutted factory be searched all over again, said Rajesh Kumar, assistant divisional officer with the Delhi Fire Services (DFS).
The search resumed at 7pm on Wednesday by a joint team of five agencies – the DFS, the Delhi Police, the Delhi Civil Defence, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority and the municipal corporation.
“We began a floor-wise search from the top since the other body was found on the second floor. It was tough since the factory was filled with burnt heaps of rubber and plastic footwear,” said Kumar.
The search went on through the night and ended over 17 hours later at 12.30pm on Thursday when the rescuers used farming tools to dig through one large heap of burnt footwear to find Hardev’s body underneath it.
Earlier on Sunday, a neighbour had told fire fighters that they had heard loud screams and bangs on the terrace door, but couldn’t help as it was locked from inside.
While the police are yet to determine the cause of the blaze, fire fighters suspect the role of a burning brazier meant to keep the two men warm at night.