New Delhi: Seventeen low floor air-conditioned buses of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), costing over Rs 10 crore, went up in flames in a major fire on Thursday at the Ambedkar Nagar depot in South Delhi even as authorities were probing various angles, including sabotage.
Nobody was injured in the blaze at the depot where around 125 low floor AC and non-AC buses were parked. The cause of the fire, which was reported at 3:20 AM, was yet to be ascertained.
DTC has appointed a three-member panel to investigate the cause of the fire and asked it to file its report within three days.
Delhi Fire Service Chief A K Sharma did not rule out possibility of a bonfire causing the blaze or a sabotage.
"Somebody might have lit a bonfire to keep warm during the winter night and left it unattended. These are CNG buses and a leak of the inflammable gas may have caught fire.
"Parked buses cannot catch fire on their own. It could also be some sort of sabotage but its too early to say and only forensic examination can reveal the exact cause of fire," Sharma told PTI.
He said a total of 11 fire tenders were pressed into service and the fire was doused by around 5:15 AM.
The AC buses gutted in the fire were procured at a cost of over Rs 60 lakh each around four years back. All other buses were immediately taken out of the depot following the fire.
"We have appointed a three-member fact finding committee, headed by Deputy Chief General Manager (Mechanical), which has been asked to submit its report within three days," DTC's Chairman-cum-Managing Director Debashree Mukherjee said.
The fire, however, did not engulf a CNG filling station which was close to the parked buses.
The police have registered an FIR and a forensic team visited the spot and picked up circumstantial evidence to ascertain cause of the fire. Depot officials and eyewitnesses were also questioned in this connection.
"We have registered a case under section 336 IPC (act endangering life or personal safety of others) and section 427 IPC (mischief causing damage) has been registered and we are investigating the case from all possible angles," said a senior police official.
DTC bus operations in South Delhi were hit due to the fire.
Mukherjee said DTC has requested the Delhi government to also appoint a probe panel comprising senior officials of the transport department to investigate the incident.
Sources said the government was likely to set up the committee tomorrow and it may be asked to file a report within 15 days.
Officials said DTC will not be able to recover cost of the buses from insurance companies as all the 17 buses were insured under third-party scheme.
"Under third-party scheme, only insurance company can give compensation to victim or his family if he/she was injured or killed by DTC buses. If corporation's buses get damaged or burnt, DTC can not recover the cost," a senior official said.
No CCTV camera was installed at Ambedkar Nagar depot. A fleet of 125 DTC buses, including 50 AC and 75 non-AC low- floor buses, were kept in the depot.
At present, DTC has a total of 3775 low-floor buses, including 1250 AC low-floor buses.
Sources said that the Lieutenant Governor has sought a detailed report of the incident.
According to DTC spokesperson R S Minhas, DTC personnel at the depot tried to douse the fire by using fire extinguisher cylinders.
"The drivers who were available in the rest room removed 70 buses from the depot yard and parked them on the main road outside the depot. Meanwhile, a PCR van which was already stationed at the depot called the fire service for help," Minhas said.