Note: The following is based on eyewitness accounts and the author’s personal experience.
By Shubham Goyal:
This is to bring to your notice the loss that we have incurred due to the sheer negligence and lack of action by the various government departments that I and my family dealt with during the gas cylinder blast that took place on April 18, 2016, at Kailash Nagar, Gandhinagar, Delhi.
Let me walk you through my personal account of the entire event that took place:
The first hiccup was dealing with the fire department.
One of the buildings caught fire around 6:30 p.m. There were kids trapped in the house on the third floor in the same building. Before the fire could reach them, my uncle, Rajesh Kumar Goyal (deceased in the accident) tried to reach them from the terrace and rescued them. His son, Pratham Goyal, informed the fire department about the fire accident at 6:50 p.m. When the call was made to the fire department, they did not take it seriously and were reluctant to take any action. They mockingly said, “tumhare jagah pe roz hi aag lagi rehti hai (a fire breaks out in your locality every other day)”. Then, about 2-3 calls were made by another member of the locality, Mrs. Pooja to convince the fire department to take prompt action as the situation was worsening.
The fire department still did not take any prompt action. Despite being informed about the entire situation, they reached the accident site at around 7:45 p.m. by which time the mishap had already occurred. There had been casualties and many were injured by then.
The second hiccup was in dealing with the government hospital authorities.
As there was no one from the fire safety department, the locals got together to help each other out. My uncle was among the various others trying to suppress the fire to ensure no major mishap occurs. He, along with the others, jumped to the opposite building and started throwing water from there to douse the fire.
Just at this very moment, there was a sudden gas cylinder blast in the building which had already caught fire. The impact of this blast was so enormous that the vibrations were felt in the adjoining areas, the doors and windows of other buildings shattered and the opposite building where my uncle was standing started to shake as well. There was debris all over the place. It hit people on the roads; it fell on those nearby. The entire situation was chaotic.
My uncle, too, got caught under a layer of debris and was severely injured. Despite being injured, he was still conscious enough to give his details to the police. The police got him out of the debris and took him to the nearby government hospital, Lok Nayak Hospital (as part of standard protocol). Once he and the other injured people were admitted to the hospital by the police, no prompt action was taken by the staff in the emergency ward. They lay in pain waiting for medical aid.
My family at this time was unaware of the whereabouts of my uncle. We were searching for him at the accident site and asking the locals/police officials about him. The police authority did not have any clarity about where the casualties were taken and/or admitted. I had to run around and check the nearby hospitals myself and search for my missing uncle. I checked the Shiv Shakti Nursing Home first. Then, I went to Lok Nayak Hospital as it is one of the most reputed government hospitals in our zone.
My father (Shambhu Dayal Aggarwal) reached Lok Nayak Hospital at around 8:10 p.m. He found him among the casualties laid out together, unattended, and without any necessary aid. My uncle was conscious even at that time. In order to initiate action by the hospital, my father had to shout in order to draw attention to the urgency of medical aid.
My uncle was hit at various places on his body. He had a deep scar on his neck; a metal object had hit him on his chest; his back was injured severely and his eyes had blood in them. One of the hospital attendees came, did some basic bandaging on his neck and left. We had to specifically ask for oxygen supply for the patient for which we faced a delayed response time once again.
The doctors showed a great deal of laziness and reluctance to attend to the patients. They probably assumed one of two scenarios: either the casualties were already dead or would soon be dead! The treatment only started once my father reached the hospital.
After basic first aid, we took my uncle for further treatment to the third floor. But, unfortunately, my uncle had lost his life by then (8:45 p.m.).
The third hiccup was in dealing with the Delhi Police.
At no point, while my uncle was alive and conscious, did the police authorities take contact numbers from him and inform the family members. Had we been aware of the situation, we could have provided aid privately as soon as possible.
The next day, when we went to collect the bodies of the deceased, we could not get his body easily. The investigating officer whose signature we needed on the death certificate to get the hospital to release the body was very casual in his approach.
My family and I were agitated by this behavior of the authorities during such a calamity. We want action to be taken against the following:
1. The fire department,
2. The doctors and staff who were on duty at the Emergency ward at Lok Nayak Hospital,
3. The Police department that was in charge
We won’t get him back but, at least, we want to bring attention to the issue so that, in future, it is not repeated with another Rajesh.