It was about 1 AM. I had just come back from work, and was trying to get some sleep. While I was catching some sleep, there was someone shouting, "Help Help". I thought I was dreaming even before I fell asleep. It appeared like someone was standing opposite to my window and asking for help. I didn't bother much and tried to catch sleep. The shouts increased, and soon, I was able to smell some smoke. I walked out of my room to see what happened. I saw that a family was trapped in their balcony, and it appeared like fire had broken out. I could observe from my balcony that there was smoke coming out of the other room. I was still unable to convince myself that something like this was really happening. I thought I was sleep walking in my dreams. I went in to the kitchen and had a glass of water. The smoke increased and it was then that I came in my senses. I rushed out of my house to see that the home right next to mine was in a mess. There was 3 ladies and 3 kids trapped in the house, unable to know what to do. I ran to wake up the security. Even other neighbors started coming out.
We were clueless about what had happened and what we should be doing. We called up the fire brigade and they promised to come soon. But the situation was turning worse, and by then, we made out that a short circuit had triggered the fire in home. I couldn't believe that a short circuit could be so massively dangerous. The first thing we did was to turn off the electricity connection for the entire apartment. We were unable to stop ourselves from doing something and we couldn't wait till the fire brigade. 4 of us walked over to the main door and started checking if we can enter in. We ran back and forward to ask the family if they had a key, or if there was an alternate door, etc. Though they gave us a key, it just helped us open the add on door, and not the main door.
We decided to break open the door. The door was really strong. Despite us kicking it to the best of our energies, it had no effect. We got a rod and started smashing it, and a layer of the door was broken. Yet, the lock area was so strong that it just didn't break. We continued smashing it vigorously, and finally, it was broken. The moment the door was broken, a flush of smoke came out of the house. I still had my own doubt on whether this incident happened due to a short circuit or some cylinder burst. We just couldn't enter the house, as it was filled with smoke. I could see with great difficulty that almost everything in the house was burnt.
The fire brigade arrived by then, and they took a quick step spraying water, and doing their process to solve the issue. In moments, the police and ambulance too arrived. All this happened in a span of 8-10 minutes. They too were unable to enter the house. Finally, they had to use protective gear, mask and suit to walk in to the house and rescue the family. By God's grace, all the 6 members of the family were safely brought out of the house. First came the grandmas who were just unable to even walk. We took them downstairs and made them sit. They were crying to the core. Then came the kids, and at last, came the mother. She was simply inconsolable. She was searching for her kids, without being aware that they had already come out. It was a great sigh of relief for her when she saw the kids out there.
Slowly, as the smoke cleared, we saw that everything that is connected to electricity had burnt and the house was completely devastated. The TV and music system had turned into some liquidized state, the fan was hanging broken, and even the furniture (woolen, and cotton, but not wood) had burnt. It was just a terrible scene. It remains a disbelief for me even today that a short circuit can trigger such a damage. We walked off from the place as the police and other regulatory authorities took over.
A lesson that I learnt from this entire episode is to make sure we turn off the electricity switches when we are not using them, and keep anything that is conducive of electricity away from switches.