Ketan Jorawadia, 23, was not in the multi-storey building in Surat when a devastating fire broke out on Friday, killing 22 people. But when videos of the incident went viral on social media, he was the one seen clinging to the windowpanes on the third floor and saving those trapped inside one by one way before the fire brigade managed to get its act together.
Ketan, who lives close to the area where the fire broke out, was able to save at least 10 students of a coaching centre located on the top floor of the building. Many people, including a child, were seen jumping from the top two floors of the building, in their desperation to escape the blaze.
"There was a lot of smoke. I could not figure out what to do. A girl fell to the ground in front of me while trying to escape the blaze. Seeing this, I quickly arranged a ladder and propped it behind the building and helped as many people get to safety," he told NDTV.
Then, he decided to go in and help the others still tapped. In visuals that have played on loop on television channels since then, Ketan is seen sliding out of a window, hanging precariously on third floor and helping students as young as 13, exit the building.
"When I reached the top, I started bringing down the kids one by one. There were many still caught inside even then," Ketan said.
Ketan's bravery has made him a hero not just in Surat but also won the hearts of people online. His lament: if more people tried to help instead of filming the tragedy on their phones, more lives could have been saved.
"The fire brigade reached around 40 minutes after the fire broke out. They took some time in parking fire engines. They did not have sufficient equipment. If they were having something like a net, some students could have saved their lives by jumping on it," he added.
The Gujarat government has ordered an investigation into the incident. Two fire officers have been suspended for granting a safety clearance to the building. The police have arrested the Bhargav Bhutani, who ran the coaching centre, and have also registered a case against owners of the building - Harshal Vekaria and Jignesh Padgal.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and many other leaders condoled the incident on Twitter. An investigation has been ordered into the incident and the state government has promised to give Rs 4 lakh to each of the families of those killed.
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