The massive fire that broke out at 4.30 a.m. on Tuesday inside a four-storey hotel in Delhi’s Karol Bagh area claimed as many as 17 innocent lives, including one child and three women, officials confirmed.
Confirming 17 deaths in the incident, Delhi’s top fire officer Atul Garg said that the fire department received a phone call informing him about the fire at around 4:50 a.m. local time.
“Our fire station is just nearby and we reached the hotel within six minutes. We saw dark smoke coming out of the hotel building.
“Our first priority was to save as many lives as we could. With the help of hydraulic lifts which we brought along, we could pull out as many as 35 people,’’ Garg told Xinhua.
He said that the fire broke out on the first floor and within minutes it spread up to the third and fourth floors of the hotel, as the staircase and corridors were made of wood.
The fire-fighting operation carried out by more than 100 personnel of Delhi’s fire department lasted around four hours.
“Many of the deaths took place due to smoke, not fire. We recovered only two dead bodies from the corridors and the rest 15 from inside the rooms where there was no fire.
“People were asleep when the fire broke out and may have panicked on seeing too much of suffocating smoke coming inside their rooms,’’ Garg said.
The relief and rescue work has completed, and the hotel is in the custody of local police, he said.
According to the fire officer, the hotel had fire-fighting equipment, but it is not known whether it was functional or not.
“We have initiated an enquiry to find out the exact cause of fire.
We will come out with it by today, and fix the responsibility on the hotel owners if there was any laxity on their part,’’ he added.
Also, an eye-witness said: ”Within minutes the fire accompanied by dense smoke engulfed the whole hotel, leaving almost no space for the occupants to rush to safety.”
According to one of the eyewitnesses, there was a family of 13 members staying inside the hotel.
“They came here from south India to attend a wedding.
“Their one member died and his dead body has been recovered, while two family members are still missing,’’ she said.