17 killed in blaze at New Delhi hotel

FRENCH PRESS AGENCY - AFP
NEW DELHI
Published 12.02.2019 09:26 Modified 12.02.2019 09:26
The Arpit Palace Hotel is reflected in a puddle after an early morning fire at the hotel killed more than a dozen people in the Karol Bagh neighborhood of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb.12, 2019. (AP Photo)
The Arpit Palace Hotel is reflected in a puddle after an early morning fire at the hotel killed more than a dozen people in the Karol Bagh neighborhood of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb.12, 2019. (AP Photo)

At least 17 people died on Tuesday as a fire tore through a budget hotel in New Delhi before dawn, in the latest disaster to raise concerns over fire safety in India.

The fire broke out at the Hotel Arpit Palace in a congested part of central New Delhi, with images showing it engulfing the entire top floor.

"We have confirmed with hospital authorities, the toll is now 17 including a child," Sunil Choudhary, a fire brigade official, told AFP.

Local media reports said the woman and the child died as they tried to escape by jumping from a window.

G.C. Misra, New Delhi fire brigade director, said the blaze had been brought under control and that 35 people were rescued by firefighters in an operation lasting several hours.

"There was wooden paneling on corridors because of which people could not use corridors to evacuate," another firefighter told reporters.

Images showed thick smoke and flames billowing out of the top floor of the four-story hotel, popular with budget travelers.

Police said they were investigating the cause.

The blaze was extinguished in the early hours with the help of at least 25 fire engines, with the top floors being gutted.

Fires are common across India because of poor safety standards and lax enforcement of regulations.

Activists say builders and landlords often cut corners on safety to save costs and have accused civic authorities of negligence and apathy.

Fire disasters are particularly frequent in Mumbai, India's financial capital where millions live in cramped and dilapidated properties because of high rents.

In December, eight people were killed when a fire engulfed a hospital in Mumbai.

In 2017, 14 people were killed, also in Mumbai, when a huge blaze tore through a popular restaurant.

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