DPA/IANS /New Delhi
At least 18 students were killed after a massive fire broke out at a tuition class in Gujarat yesterday, police said.
Television footage broadcast by private channel NDTV showed people jumping off the top floor of the Takshashila building or trying to escape by climbing down, as thick smoke billowed out.
Most of the dead were students who had been attending class at a tuition centre housed in the building, according to the spokesman for the office of Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
“The fire started near the staircase, so they could not get down,” joint commissioner of police Harikrishna Patel said.
The blaze, likely caused due to an electrical short circuit, started between 3.45pm-4pm local time and spread rapidly, Patel said.
The fire was brought under control in about five hours by two dozen fire engines.
Television footage showed people trying to grab a large banner on the side of the building as they plummeted down.
Rupani has ordered an inquiry into the incident and asked Mukesh Puri, principal secretary of the urban development department, to submit a report within three days, the spokesman for his office said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter he was thinking of the bereaved families.
“Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy in Surat,” Modi said. “May the injured recover quickly,” he said, adding he had instructed authorities to help those affected.
Politician C R Patil alleged there were gross safety violations in the building; the coaching class was being run from an illegal construction on the topmost floors and there were no emergency fire exits.
Rupani has announced a compensation of Rs400,000 for the families of the victims.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi wished a speedy recovery to those injured in the incident, while the Congress party urged its workers in Gujarat to help the victims.
“We’re shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of lives of children in the terrible fire at a coaching centre in Surat. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims. We urge our Gujarat Congress workers to do what they can to help,” the Congress said on its official Twitter handle.
BJP president Amit Shah also asked party workers to “assist the people in need”.
The Aam Aadmi Party has also urged the local authorities provide all possible assistance to those affected.
Several other senior leaders, including Union Minister Rajnath Singh, Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, Ahmed Patel, and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot have also reacted to the incident.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said in a tweet: “My heart goes out to the parents and loved ones of the children killed in the fire in Surat. This mind-numbing tragedy once again drives home how poor our building codes & fire safety standards are. May the souls of the deceased rest in peace & may the injured make a speedy recovery.”
Deaths in fires are not uncommon in India where many establishments do not comply with fire safety standards. The fires are often caused by substandard or ageing electrical material.
In February, at least 17 people died in a fire that broke out at a hotel in the national capital New Delhi.
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