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17 killed as fire sweeps through New Delhi hotel

World News | Published:

Twenty-five fire engines responded to the blaze in the popular tourist area.

A fire has engulfed a shoddily built budget hotel in central New Delhi, killing 17 people and injuring at least four others, including a woman who leapt from an upper floor to escape the flames, Indian authorities said.

Three of those killed at the Arpit Palace Hotel in Karol Bagh were members of a family who had travelled to the Indian capital from Kerala to attend a wedding, family friend Arvind Vishwanathan said outside a hospital mortuary.

Most of the deaths – in 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.

Firefighters rescue people during a fire at the Arpit Palace Hotel in New Delhi, India
Firefighters rescue people at the Arpit Palace Hotel (Sivanand Chand/AP)

“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 at around 4am, struggling to breathe.

“When I got out of my room, I could hear ‘help, help!’ from adjoining rooms,” he said.

The hallway was dark and thick with smoke, so Mr Chand turned back into his room and opened a window. He saw flames rising fast.

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“In 15 minutes, the whole room was black,” he said.

The Arpit Palace Hotel is reflected in a puddle after an early morning fire
The hotel is in an area popular with tourists (Manish Swarup/AP)

Mr Chand said rescue efforts were delayed because the first fire engines arrived with manual ladders that were not tall enough to reach his floor.

He and some other guests were eventually escaped through his window on to a hydraulic lift.

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About 100 firefighters 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.

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 rescue 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?” Mr Garg said.

Video showed firefighters carrying victims slumped over their shoulders through an unlit, charred stairwell.

Authorities are investigating what sparked the blaze, Deputy Police Commissioner Mandeep Singh Randhawa said.

Among those injured was a woman from Burma who sustained spinal injuries after jumping from an upper floor, according to Deputy Fire Chief Sunil Choudhary. She is being treated at a local hospital, he said.

The other injured people were also taken to hospital 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.”

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