The Hotel Arpit Palace in the Karol Bagh area of the Indian capital, New Delhi, caught fire yesterday morning. At least seventeen people died and 35 were rescued, according to officials, some of whom were hospitalised. Many of the affected guests were Indian; the Myanma embassy confirmed two Buddhist pilgrims from Myanmar also died.
The area is popular with visitors, with budget hotels and shopping districts. Firefighters dispatched around 30 vehicles; personnel reportedly had control of the blaze by 8:00am local time. No cause was immediately known, but a fire officer said wooden panels led to corridors becoming unusable for escape.
Local media reported most of the deceased suffocated. One child was, according to the fire service, among the dead. The hotel’s website estimated 120 people were in the 25-year-old building at the time. A judicial inquiry was ordered, according to police.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted “Deeply saddened by the loss of lives” and offered “condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. May the injured recover soon.”
According to eyewitnesses, the deceased child and his mother were among victims who leapt from the burning hotel. The top floor has been extensively damaged and blackened by the blaze.
Satyendra Jain, the city’s home minister, said “Buildings can only be constructed up to four floors in Delhi[…] This hotel had been built up to six floors. It’s gross negligence on the part of the officers who allowed the extra floors to be built.
The entire hotel has wooden panelling, this shows carelessness on the part of the owner.” Fires are common in India. Activists claim safety standards are routinely ignored.