NEW DELHI—Indian police said on May 25 they had filed a culpable homicide case against three people as the death toll from a building fire in India’s Gujarat state rose to 20, with students attending coaching classes accounting for all those killed.
Satish Sharma, Commissioner of Police in the city of Surat, told reporters that one of the three men named in the police report ran the classes and has been arrested, though no charges have been brought yet.
The Gujarat government has ordered an inquiry into the incident, as well as a fire safety audit of schools, colleges, coaching centers, and commercial buildings in Surat, where the fire occurred.
16 girls among 19 students killed in #Surat fire tragedy
— Times of India (@timesofindia) May 25, 2019
— India Today (@IndiaToday) May 25, 2019
Some eyewitnesses and families of the victims have alleged fire officials were slow to arrive, according to Reuter’s partner ANI. Paresh Patel, whose daughter was inside the commercial complex when the fire broke out, said the fire brigade took 45 minutes to arrive. “Even though my daughter got saved, she is still in trauma,” he told ANI.
It’s really sad to hear this news about Surat fire incident of the coaching centre! We have lost our precious souls! May God give peace to all the departed souls and give strength to their families during this darkest hour ????@bangtan_india#SuratFire pic.twitter.com/RtVe9Qy1Xa
— BTS Gujarat???????????? (@bangtan_gujarat) May 24, 2019
Initial investigations showed the fire, which broke out in the stairway of the multi-story Takshashila Arcade building, was caused by a short circuit, according to local media reports. Police were not immediately available to comment on Saturday.
A government official said at least 50 students were in the complex when the fire broke out. Injured victims were rushed to hospitals and the toll could rise further.
— RT (@RT_com) May 24, 2019
Television footage showed students desperately trying to escape by jumping off the building as smoke billowed from the top floor.
“To avoid such tragic incidents, I have asked officials to conduct fire safety audit of all buildings,” Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said on Friday.
There was no safety equipment installed in the building and no escape routes for the students, a fire official separately said.
Police said the building owner was among the three people named in the report but did not provide further details on their identities.
By Zeba Siddiqui