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17 Die in Blaze in New Delhi Tourist District

Authorities blame shoddy construction
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 12, 2019 12:11 AM CST
The Arpit Palace Hotel is reflected in a puddle after an early morning fire at the hotel killed more than a dozen people in the Karol Bagh neighborhood of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb.12, 2019.   (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
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(Newser) – A fire engulfed a shoddily built budget hotel in central New Delhi early Tuesday, killing 17 people and injuring at least four others, including a woman who leaped from an upper floor to escape the flames, Indian authorities say. Hotel guest Sivanand Chand, 43, says he was jolted awake around 4am, struggling to breathe. "When I got out of my room, I could hear 'help, help!' from adjoining rooms," Chand says. A video shot by a worker at a nearby hotel showed flames consuming the top of the building, which authorities say contained an unauthorized makeshift kitchen formed from sheets of fiberglass, the AP reports. Chand says rescue efforts were delayed because the first fire trucks arrived with manual ladders that weren't tall enough to reach his floor.

Fire officials say around three dozen people were rescued. Rescuers had to use windows because wood paneling in stairwells and corridors fed the flames. Most of the deaths at the Arpit Palace Hotel in Karol Bagh, an area in India's capital city popular with tourists because of its shops and budget hotels, were due to suffocation, says Satyendar Kumar Jain, the Delhi government minister of urban development. The hotel developer had a permit from the fire department to build up to four stories—the standard height in central Delhi. But the building appeared to have six floors, including a kitchen built on top of the roof, Jain says. "Carelessness on the part of authorities is evident. We are going to investigate, and the wrongdoer will be punished," he says.

(Read more India stories.)

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