Death toll rises to 20 from western India building fire

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-25 14:15:49|Editor: ZX
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NEW DELHI, May 25 (Xinhua) -- The devastating blaze inside a coaching center in India's western state of Gujarat has claimed 20 lives, officials said Saturday.

Over a dozen people were injured in the fire and undergoing treatment in the nearest hospitals.

The victims, most of them students, were aged below 20 years old.

The fire broke out Friday at around 3:30 p.m. local time inside a four-storey building housing a coaching center in Sarthana area of Surat district, about 275 km south of Gandhinagar, the capital city of Gujarat.

"So far we have information that 20 children were killed and 16 others are injured in the tragedy at Takshila Commercial Complex," a police official posted in Surat told Xinhua.

According to police, the fire started near the staircase of the third floor and quickly spread to the fourth floor, where the students were taking their tuition classes.

Images from the scene showed some students jumping off the multi-storey building as heavy smoke comes out of it in an attempt to escape the blaze.

Apart from regular school hours, many young students in India take tuition classes at private coaching centers to improve their grades.

Although locals alleged that the fire tenders arrived late, the firefighters said they received the call at around 4:00 p.m. local time and contained the blaze in two hours.

Reports said about 50 to 60 people were on the third and fourth floor when the fire broke out.

Eyewitnesses said locals rescued many of the trapped.

Reports said there were no portable fire extinguishers inside the coaching center.

The authorities have ordered high-level inquiry into the incident. Gujarat deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel told media that strict action would be taken against the guilty.

The exact cause of the fire was being ascertained. However, preliminary investigation carried out by police suggested it was caused due to an electric short circuit.

Meanwhile, the administration have ordered closure of tuition centers in several parts of the state especially in cities until detailed fire safety checks are carried out.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani have expressed their grief over the loss of lives in the tragedy.

Rupani visited the spot and went to see the injured children in hospital Friday night. His government has announced a cash assistance of 400,000 Indian Rupees (5,765 U.S. dollars) for each family that lost member in the tragedy.