“Her children still think that their mother is admitted to the hospital. They think she will get better and return home,” said the brother of Soni Kumari, 35, who was in the Mundka building that caught fire on Friday, 13 May. Soni is among the 29 that have been reported missing.
So far, 27 bodies have been found, of which only eight had been identified as of Sunday morning. Out of the 27 confirmed deaths, 21 were women.
The families of the others who are missing have been running from pillar to post, in an attempt to ascertain whether their kin are alive or not.
On Saturday, hoards of people lined up on the main road below the metro line opposite the building where the fire broke out, with shards of broken glass strewn across the road. Embittered family members kept reaching the spot throughout the day, asking for more information about their loved ones.
While the government promised the families compensation, those whose kin are missing said that no amount of money can reassure them until they have more information.
Delhi Fire Services (DFS) Chief Atul Garg told The Quint that it is difficult to tell what the actual death toll is.
"Because the remains are so charred, we cannot tell if it is the body of one person or two, or three. Hence, we have handed them over to doctors who are currently conducting DNA tests. It is likely that the toll might go up from 27 to 29 or 30.”DFS Chief Atul Garg
"If She Escaped, Where Is She?" Asks Family of 35-year-old
Many of the workers broke the glass and jumped from the building in order to escape the inferno. Similarly, when Soni Kumari called her husband to tell him about the fire, she said that she was trying to climb down using a rope. But her mobile has been switched off since then, said her brother, Praveen Kumar Mishra.
When she called her husband, she told him that the gate was locked and there was no way to get out. Someone broke the glass windows and people from downstairs helped them come down with ropes. But we do not know where she is. If she escaped, where is she?”Praveen Kumar Mishra, brother of Soni Kumari
He added that Soni has two children, 8 and 10, who are waiting for her to return home. On Monday morning, the family said that they had still not found her in Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, Sanjay Gandhi Hospital, or Safdarjung Hospital. With the hope that she is alive and undergoing treatment in a hospital, they asked officials at Sanjay Gandhi hospital if patients were referred elsewhere too.
Their Phones Were Not With the Workers, Say Family Members
The family of 22-year-old Monica said that she could not reach them at the time of the incident. This is because their phones used to be deposited at the office and workers would be given their phones at lunch. The survivors said that this was done so that they do not get distracted and can focus on their work.
Only those who carried their phones despite this rule were able to call their families when the fire broke out.
Komal, an aunt of Monica, said that her niece had been employed there for three months and was working in the packing of cameras. The 22-year-old has three brothers and one sister.
"Why did they take their phones? If she had her phone, she would have called us and we could have helped. We found out after the entire building was on fire."Komal, aunt of Monica
For those waiting outside the building on Saturday evening, the anxieties were running high. Some of them said that they would have to go inside and take the bodies out themselves as the process was taking too long.
On Sunday morning, a relative of Monica said that they were going to make rounds of the building as well as the hospitals.
'He Was Working There To Sustain His Family': Mother of 24-year-old
Narendra, who stayed in Prem Nagar in Delhi, left at 9 am for work like every other day, recalled his mother Rajrani. “He never spoke about his work much but I thought he liked it,” she said. Referring to him as a camera kaarigar (craftsman), she said that he used to make CCTV cameras for a living.
Narendra, who finished his BA degree a few years ago, started working in the company two years ago. The family claimed that he earned Rs 8,500 per month and the workers had been asking for a better pay.
The family was waiting outside the hospital mortuary since Friday night. His uncle Gajraj said, “My sister was shown a few bodies but there were only charred bodies so she could not identify him. They have conducted DNA tests to identify.” His mother added that he had a meeting in the office on the day of the fire.
According to Shazia Parveen, who worked at the company and survived the blaze, the meeting was a motivational speech by the supervisors, where workers were encouraged to do something big.
“Sir was asking us what we can do to take the company… that is when the fire broke out. There were around 300 people inside," said the survivor.