New Delhi, Feb 12, 2019: Seventeen people, many of them sleeping guests, were killed in a fire at a hotel in central Delhi’s congested Karol Bagh area early Feb 12 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.
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.
A person was seen jumping from the terrace in an eye-witness video.
Hotel staff said there were nearly 150 people inside the hotel built around 25 years ago. A group of tourists from Myanmar were staying at the hotel but the authorities are searching for them.
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.
Hotel Arpit Palace is located in Karol Bagh in central Delhi.
“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.
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.
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.