Residents of Meerut, where the incident occurred late on Monday afternoon, chanted slogans against the police, saying they had failed to prevent the incident or deal with its aftermath.

More than 24 hours after the fire, many people said they were still looking for their friends and relatives. Some reports said the number of people killed could be as high as 100, but officials said on Monday that only 35 people had died. Earlier official estimates had been for about 50 deaths.

About 2,000 people had packed the electronics goods fair in Meerut, 80km from New Delhi, where air-conditioners, television sets and other home appliances were on display in about 100 stalls.

Police said an electrical short-circuit set fire to a tented enclosure covered by polythene sheets. Hundreds of people rushed along a corridor towards a single exit in the long structure, as the blaze engulfed two neighbouring tents.

Fire brigade

Puneet Agarwal, a resident, said: "There was nobody to help us when we were ferrying victims. People did everything on their own. How could they hold such a big event without a fire brigade stationed there?"

"We've checked all hospitals and the mortuary. We have not found her"

Manu Sharma

People looking for missing family members or friends visited hospitals.

Manu Sharma, looking for his friend's wife, said: "We've checked all hospitals and the mortuary. We have not found her."

Relatives also complained of a shortage of ambulances and trained medical staff to move patients to better-equipped hospitals in the capital, New Delhi.

Negligence

Pankaj Sakhuja said: "There were very few doctors and nurses to accompany patients on ventilators who were being moved to better hospitals."

Meerut traders called for a strike on Tuesday to protest against what they said was the local administration's negligence.

Laxmikant Vajpayee, a local opposition politician, said: "The first fire brigade reached half an hour after the tragedy.

"This is gross negligence."