17 killed as Delhi hotel turns furnace for inmates

17 killed as Delhi hotel turns furnace for inmates

A Delhi budget hotel turned into a furnace on Wednesday early morning as a massive fire swept through the multi-storeyed building, killing at least 17 people, including a child who along with a woman jumped from the windows.

The blaze broke out around 3.30 am in Hotel Arpit Palace in Karol Bagh, a locality known for reasonable accommodation for those arriving in the capital, which is just 5 km away from Connaught Place. The fire was doused by 7 am, by which time it had claimed the lives of at least 17, fire brigade officials said.

The officials claimed they were informed about the blaze through a telephone call only around 4.30 am and that 26 fire tenders were rushed to the spot. A short circuit is suspected to be the reason behind the fire that broke out on the first floor and spread to the upper floors.

Those killed include three of a family from Kerala who was here to attend a wedding, IRS officer Suresh Kumar from Haryana's Panchkula who jumped from the fourth floor of the hotel, two each from Myanmar and Tamil Nadu as well as one from Gujarat. The 10 others of the family from Kerala escaped unhurt.

Most of the victims were sleeping when the fire broke out and many of them were trapped inside their rooms. According to police, most of the victims died due to suffocation while some of them, like two of the three Keralites, died of burns. The three from Kerala are Naliniyamma, her son Vidyasagar and daughter Jayashree.

Video recorded on mobile phones showed plumes of smoke engulfing the building.

While a short circuit is said to be the reason for the fire, rescue workers said there was wooden panelling in the corridor because of which people could not use corridors to evacuate. Indication of violation of building norms also came to light, which included running a makeshift restaurant on the rooftop, prompting municipal officials to launch a probe into the incident.

Fire brigade officials said around three dozen people were rescued from the hotel and taken to Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. Rescue officials were seen taking out unconscious inmates from inside the hotel.

The Delhi government has ordered a magisterial enquiry; the incident raises questions about safety standards in budget hotels. Measures like frequent searches to enforce building codes, fire safety measures and evacuation procedures have not helped to contain such incidents.

Delhi Minister Satyendar Jain said officials have been negligent in enforcing building laws in the surrounding area. "There is a clear case of negligence here," he said, adding the hotel had a fifth floor in violation of laws that permit only up to four floors.