Day after Hapur deaths, search begins: ‘…Don’t know what to tell our children’

A DAY after the deaths, the search began.

As news spread of the 13 deaths in Saturday’s fire at an illegal firecracker factory in UP’s Hapur, several families, mostly from nearby Shahjahanpur, shuttled between hospitals in Hapur, Meerut, Delhi and Ghaziabad on Sunday, fearing the worst.

Some of the bodies, charred beyond recognition, were yet to be identified — one victim was identified by his toes, one smaller than the rest.

“It was nearly two weeks ago that a contractor came to our village in Badheri (near Shahjahanpur) and picked over a dozen men, offering them jobs with ‘a big company’ in Hapur. Everyone was excited as the pay was Rs 10,000-Rs 12,000 per month. A few families sent two-three men,” said Raju (27), a local resident who knew many of the victims.

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The fire triggered by an explosion also injured 13 others who were working in the factory located at an Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC) site in the Dhaulana area.

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Sitting near a tree at the mortuary in Hapur, Pappu (50) and his wife Vimla were mourning the loss of their only son Sarvesh (25). “This was the first time he had left town, and we were proud of him. When I saw his charred body, I nearly fainted. He was a strong and handsome man. We were planning to get him married and had even found a match. He was happy, too. We have lost everything,” said Pappu, who is a daily wage worker in Shahjahanpur.

Pappu’s friend Asharam (60) held on to the photo of his grandson Anoop (19). “He took the job to take care of his three sisters and a brother. I last spoke to him in the morning, asking him about his health and routine. We were laughing. Hours later, he was dead. His parents went to Meerut while I looked for his body in Ghaziabad and Delhi. We finally found his body here in Hapur,” Asharam said.

Many of the victims’ families alleged that their men found they were to work at a firecracker unit only after they reached Hapur. Anil (40) and his nephew Raghuvendra (25) were among those, according to Anil’s wife Bitana Devi. “But my husband said he won’t leave the job because we have to support our five children… This was his second job after the lockdown. I spoke to him on Friday night. We were talking about our kids. He promised he would come to visit. I haven’t yet told my children about his death. What will I tell them? Will they understand?” Devi said.

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