- Fire broke out on top floor of five-storey building at 4 am
- Over two dozen fire engines brought it under control around 7 am
- Woman and child died trying to jump off building, reports said
Seventeen people, many of them sleeping guests, were killed in a fire at a hotel in central Delhi's congested Karol Bagh area early Tuesday morning. Some of the victims were charred to death and others suffocated in the poisonous fumes. A woman and a child were killed when they jumped off the fifth floor to escape the blaze, reports said.
A case has been registered against the owner of the hotel, with sections including culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The general manager and another employee of the hotel have also been arrested by the Delhi Police, which has now transferred the case to the crime branch.
Videos recorded by witnesses showed thick smoke and flames crowning the terrace of the six-storey Hotel Arpit Palace after the fire broke out at around 4 am. A person was seen dangling from the terrace and then jumping off. Police said he died.
The fire could have started because of a short-circuit, reports said. Guests at the hotel that is popular with budget and business travellers, were unable to use corridors to escape because of wooden panelling, according to a fire officer. The hotel didn't have proper fire escapes.
Hotel staff said there were nearly 150 people inside the hotel built around 25 years ago. A group of eight from Myanmar were staying at the hotel; three of them including two women were killed and one was injured.
The fire was brought under control around 7 am by more than two dozen fire engines. Thirty-five people were rescued and those injured were taken to nearby hospitals.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who visited the location, said a magisterial inquiry had been ordered that will also look into violations by other hotels in the area.
"There is a clear case of negligence here," Delhi minister Satyendar Jain told NDTV. Even though the law limits construction only to four floors, the hotel had a fifth and sixth floor with a canopy that housed a kitchen and dining area, he said.
President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted:
Very sad to learn about the loss of lives in the tragic fire accident in Karol Bagh, Delhi. Heartfelt condolences to bereaved families and wishing an early recovery to those injured #PresidentKovind- President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) February 12, 2019
Deeply saddened by the loss of lives due to a fire at Karol Bagh in Delhi.- PMO India (@PMOIndia) February 12, 2019
I convey my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives.
May the injured recover soon: PM @narendramodi
A busy commercial centre criss-crossed by narrow alleys where electric wires dangle overhead, Karol Bagh houses hundreds of hotels, shops and offices, and is packed with tourists and shoppers.
The hotel was put up for auction by a state-run bank at a reserve price of Rs 27 crore on December 31, 2018.
Authorities in Delhi have frequently launched raids to enforce building codes, fire safety measures and evacuation procedures but these steps have failed to check rampant violations by builders in a rapidly expanding capital city of more than 18 million people.
Last week, a fire broke out in a hospital in neighbouring Noida, forcing emergency evacuation of patients. Nobody was hurt.