The hotel in Delhi’s Karol Bagh area where 17 people were killed after a massive fire tore through the top two floors of the six-storey building early Tuesday had its emergency exits closed every night, Union Tourism Minister KJ Alphons has said. While many of the victims were charred to death or suffocated in the poisonous fumes, at least three people were killed when they reportedly jumped off the building in desperate attempts to escape the blaze.
“We just took a look at the emergency exits. It’s all illegal. These are very narrow, not according to specifications. And they were closed at night. According to information we have, those gates are closed at night and a guard sits outside. But we don’t know if the guard was there or not,” Mr Alphons told reporters after surveying the spot.
The Delhi Police has registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
“A 43-year-old woman suffered 45 per cent burn injuries,” he told reporters.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who visited the location, said a magisterial inquiry had been ordered that will also look into violations by other hotels in the area.
“There is a clear case of negligence here,” Delhi minister Satyendar Jain told NDTV. Even though the law limits construction only to four floors, the hotel had a fifth and sixth floor with a canopy that housed a kitchen and dining area, he said.
Authorities in Delhi have frequently launched raids to enforce building codes, fire safety measures and evacuation procedures but these steps have failed to check rampant violations by builders in a rapidly expanding capital city of more than 18 million people.