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3-min read

Emergency Exit Was Too Narrow and Locked, Says Minister on Delhi Hotel Fire That Killed 17; Two Arrested

The chief minister, who was among the many politicians and officials who visited the spot, announced Rs 5 lakh compensation for the next of kin of those killed.


Updated:February 13, 2019, 7:59 AM IST
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Emergency Exit Was Too Narrow and Locked, Says Minister on Delhi Hotel Fire That Killed 17; Two Arrested
A fire broke out at Hotel Arpit Palace in a congested part of central Delhi's Karol Bagh on Tuesday.

New Delhi: Union minister K J Alphons said the emergency exit of Arpit Palace hotel, where at least 17 people were killed in a fire that broke out early on Tuesday, was “too narrow” and also locked.

The minister, who visited the site of the tragedy in central Delhi’s Karol Bagh locality, said he was sure that there would be violation of norms.

Alphons said he spoke to the mayor and asked him to check whether all regulations were in place and to take immediate action if there was any lapse on the part of the hotel management.

The Delhi Police arrested hotel's general manager, Rajender, and manager, Vikas, for culpable homicide, DCP (central) Mandeep Singh Randhawa said. The hotel owner, Shardendu Goel, is absconding after the incident, he said. Randhawa said the case has been transferred to the Crime Branch.

According to the fire services department, 35 people were injured in the blaze and have been taken to nearby hospitals. Most of the sixty people in the hotel were sleeping when the fire broke out.

Among those dead, a woman and child were killed when they tried jumping from a window, reports said.

A majority of the deaths took place due to asphyxiation, fire officials said, while there were some who succumbed to their burns.

Some used fire extinguishers were found, suggesting people trapped inside tried to douse the flames in a bid to escape. But escape may have been almost impossible.

“When I headed to the emergency exit, I found that it had been locked yesterday (Monday night). Also, it was too narrow,” the Union tourism minister said.

“Obviously, even if people came to the emergency exit, they could not have escaped as it was too narrow and it was locked anyway," he said.

Alphons said there were a lot of wooden structures inside, which may have helped the fire spread.

Sandip Khandelwal, president of the Delhi Hotel and Restaurants Owners Association, said fire tenders reached 15-20 minutes late because the area was barricaded for security purposes at night and fire tenders had to take a longer route to reach the hotel.

Preliminary investigation suggested a suspected short circuit could have sparked the fire, civic officials added.

There were 53 people in the 45-room budget hotel, which had a canopy on the terrace housing what appeared to be a restaurant, they said.

Video grabs of the fire taken by an eyewitness showed flames billowing out from the terrace into the pre-dawn darkness.

One person is missing, said Madhur Verma, deputy commissioner of police (New Delhi).

“A 43-year-old woman suffered 45 per cent burn injuries," he told reporters, adding that 13 of the bodies were taken to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, two to Lady Hardinge Hospital and two to BLK hospital.

Of the 13 bodies, 10 were identified — three from Kerala, one from Gujarat, and two from Myanmar. The other four, officials said, have been identified but efforts were on to ascertain where they came from.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter, “Deeply saddened by the loss of lives due to a fire at Karol Bagh in Delhi. I convey my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives.”

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was among the many politicians and officials who visited the spot, announced Rs 5 lakh compensation for the next of kin of those killed.

"It is a very tragic incident. It seems that there may have been some lapses. A magisterial probe has been ordered to investigate the cause of the incident."

Delhi fire services director GC Mishra said the department received a call about the blaze around 4:30 am. He said the fire started from the fourth floor of the hotel and spread till the second floor, while the ground floor and basement remained unaffected.

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