Police have arrested two people in connection with a massive fire in a four-storey commercial building in the Indian capital, that left at least 27 people dead, police and fire officials have said.
Twelve more were injured in the blaze that engulfed the building in the Mundka area in the city’s western suburbs on Friday evening, Delhi Fire Services chief Atul Garg told reporters on Saturday.
The building did not have safety clearances from the fire department nor was it equipped with fire-safety equipment, Garg said, adding that the fire started on the first floor, which houses a company that manufactures security cameras.
Two brothers, owners of the firm, were arrested by the police, according to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who visited the site on Saturday. The owner of the building has absconded.
More than 75 people were in the building when the fire broke out on Friday evening. Some jumped from windows to save themselves, according to witnesses, and firefighters broke the glass and rescued people with ropes.
The police registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and a criminal conspiracy that is punishable with life imprisonment or 10 years in jail.
All 27 bodies were recovered from the second floor where people attending a motivational meeting were caught in the fire, Garg, the Fire Services chief, said.
Only five victims have been identified so far because the bodies were so badly burned, he said, adding that the rescue work was over.
At least 50 people were rescued from the building, which contained mainly shops, the fire control room said.
Fire safety norms often flouted
Fires have been common in India, where building laws and safety norms have often been flouted by builders and residents. In 2019, a fire caused by an electrical short circuit engulfed a building in New Delhi and killed 43 people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was saddened by the loss of lives and wished for the speedy recovery of the 12 injured who have been hospitalised.
The Indian prime minister promised 200,000 rupees ($2,580) in compensation for the victims’ next-of-kin.
Sachin Garg, a resident in the area, said the building had only one exit door, and people trapped there found it difficult to leave quickly because of a crush. “They called ambulances and fire officials used crane buckets to rescue people,” he said.
Satbir Lakra, another resident, said several men and women smashed glass walls and jumped to the ground floor.
The building is located in a congested area with industrial units and the fire engines took time to reach the spot, Garg, the fire services chief, said.
Twenty-seven fire engines doused the flames after battling for more than five hours. A search operation continued overnight to look for anyone trapped in the rubble, the fire control room said.
The cause of the fire was not immediately clear and is being investigated.