17 killed in fire at New Delhi hotel, four others hurt, India
A fire engulfed a shoddily built budget hotel in central New Delhi early on Tuesday, 12 February 2019, killing 17 people and injuring at least four others, including a woman from Myanmar who leaped from an upper floor to escape the flames, Indian authorities said. Some 100 fire fighters and 25 fire engines responded to the fire, which engulfed all but the ground floor of the hotel, fire officer Vijay Paul said. About three dozen people were rescued, Paul said. It was not immediately clear how many guests and staff were inside the hotel, which had 43 guest rooms, according to its website. Rescuers had to break windows to evacuate people because wood panelling in the corridors and stairwells fed the flames, said fire official Atul Garg. "That is the escape route. People have to come out of the room and take the staircase but the staircase itself was on fire, so how they will go out?" Garg said.
Three of those killed were members of a family who had travelled to India's capital from Kerala in southern India to attend a wedding, family friend Arvind Vishwanathan said outside a hospital mortuary. Most of the deaths at the Arpit Palace Hotel in Karol Bagh, an area in India's capital city popular with tourists because of its shops and budget hotels, were due to suffocation, said Satyendar Kumar Jain, the Delhi government minister of health and urban development, as he toured the site after the fire was extinguished.
The hotel developer had a permit from the fire department to build up to four storeys, the standard height in central Delhi. But the building appeared to have six floors, including a basement and a kitchen built on top of the roof, Jain said. "Carelessness on the part of authorities is evident. We are going to investigate, and the wrongdoer will be punished," he said.
Hotel guest Sivanand Chand, 43, said he was jolted awake around 4h00, struggling to breathe. "When I got out of my room, I could hear 'help, help!' from adjoining rooms," Chand said. The hallway was dark and thick with smoke, so Chand turned back into his room and opened a window. He saw flames rising fast. "In 15 minutes, the whole room was black," he said.
A video shot by a worker at a nearby hotel showed flames consuming the top of the building, which authorities said contained an unauthorised makeshift kitchen formed from sheets of fibreglass. Chand said rescue efforts were delayed because the first fire trucks arrived with manual ladders that weren't tall enough to reach his floor. He and some other guests were eventually evacuated through his window by a hydraulic lift.
In a video, fire fighters can be seen carrying victims slumped over their shoulders through an unlit, charred stairwell. Authorities were still investigating what sparked the blaze, Deputy Police Commissioner Mandeep Singh Randhawa said. Among those injured was a woman from Myanmar who sustained spinal injuries after jumping from an upper floor, according to deputy fire chief, Sunil Choudhary. She was being treated at a local hospital, he said, declining to provide her name. The other injured people were also taken to hospitals, but their conditions were not immediately known.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet that he was deeply saddened by the loss of lives. "I convey my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. May the injured recover soon."
Days after the fire at Hotel Arpit Palace that killed 17 people, the Delhi Fire Services (DFS), on Monday, 18 February 2019, suspended licenses of 105 hotels operating in Karol Bagh area of central Delhi, an official said. "As part of an on-going drive to suspend licences of hotels running in Karol Bagh area in violation of the safety rules, issued by the fire department, we have inspected 145 hotels of which licences of 105 have been suspended," Atul Garg, a top fire services official, told IANS. There are 300 hotels operating in the Karol Bagh area and the DFS team is inspecting each of them.
The owner of a New Delhi hotel where 17 people were killed in a fire has been arrested on charges of negligence and was produced in court on Sunday, 17 February 2019, police said. The owner of Arpit Hotel in New Delhi's Karol Bagh area, where the deadly fire broke out, was arrested on Saturday night at the international airport as he returned to India from Doha, a Delhi Police spokesman said.
Police said they had issued an arrest warrant for the hotel owner Rakesh Goel and his brother Shardendu Goel after the fire. This is now the third arrest in the case. Earlier, two senior managers at the hotel were arrested on charges of negligence and culpable homicide.
According to preliminary investigations, a suspected short circuit in an air-conditioner installed in a first-floor room may have sparked the fire, which rapidly spread across all five floors of the hotel and trapped an estimated 60 guests in their rooms. At least 30 were rescued by fire fighters while 15 died of burns and asphyxiation. Two people died as they jumped off the building to escape the fire.
The Crime Branch of the Delhi Police leading the investigation said in a preliminary report that the hotel was operating without the required licence and fire safety measures. It had no fire alarms, the emergency exit was locked and an unauthorised kitchen was being run on the rooftop. "Goel had been trying to sell off the hotel to pay his debts," NDTV news channel quoted an investigator as saying. The police are looking at all angles including sabotage, according to this official.
Source: NDTV and Straits Times