NEW DELHI – At least 17 people died and three others were injured on Tuesday after a huge fire broke out at a hotel in New Delhi, officials said.
A child and four women were among the fatalities, Delhi Fire Services spokesperson Shyam Prakash Singh told EFE.
Firefighters worked for nearly four hours to extinguish the blaze at Hotel Arpit Palace, which broke out in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the spokesperson said.
The entire hotel had been booked by a family who had come to New Delhi to attend a function, he added.
Twenty-two fire engines had been dispatched to put out the fire, which was brought under control at around 8:00 am, Singh said.
A police investigation has been launched into the causes of the blaze.
A magistrate inquiry would also be ordered into the incident, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said in a Twitter post.
“Visible violations of building bye (sic) laws, building constructed 6 stories including one temporary floor instead of permissible 4 floors. Ordered fire inspection of buildings in the area,” Jain said.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said 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,” Modi said.
Footage from the scene shared on social media showed pre-dawn rescue operations at the five-storey building, whose upper floors and roof were ablaze.
The 3-star Hotel Arpit Palace is located in New Delhi’s central Karol Bagh district, an area that is popular with budget tourists and backpackers.
Local reports said that at least two people had injured themselves jumping from the upper stories of the burning building.
In late December 2018, a fire at a public hospital in Mumbai in western India left eight dead and 169 injured.
Fires and building collapses are relatively frequent in India, often due to the precarious state of infrastructure and the lack of maintenance, factors fueled by corruption and illegal practices in the construction sector.
Despite fire safety measures and raids by authorities to enforce building regulations, code violations by developers have gone largely unchecked in the rapidly growing Indian capital city which is home to 18 million people.