In videos posted on social media, around ten people could be seen jumping out in an attempt to escape the blaze. Some of them were already ablaze as they jumped out of the top floor.
Seventeen teenagers were killed in a massive fire that broke out at a commercial complex in Gujarat’s Surat on Friday afternoon. Many of the dead were students at a coaching centre.
Passersby captured on camera the horrifying moments of nearly a dozen teens trying to escape plumes of thick smoke rising from the building and slipping. A few also jumped off while some were seen on videos trying to grab a large banner on the side of the building as they plummeted down.
At one point, a little child is also seen to fall prompting loud cries from witnesses in horror.
In all, a police officer told HT, about 15 people who had jumped off the four-storey building or fallen had survived. “Some of them have serious injuries but they survived the fall,” the officer said. Four of them were later reported to have died.
Police officer Praveen Chaudhary told news agency AP that more than a dozen students were hospitalized with burns.
A city police officer said the dead were aged below 20 years. “The fire started near the staircase, so they could not get down,” Joint Commissioner of Police Harikrishna Patel said, according to news agency Reuters.
The blaze, likely caused due to an electrical short circuit, started between 3.45-4.00 pm local time and spread rapidly, Patel said.
Fire department officials deployed 19 fire trucks and two hydraulic platforms to douse the fire and evacuate people trapped in the building.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “extremely anguished” by the fire tragedy in his home state. “My thoughts are with bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. Have asked the Gujarat Government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected,” he tweeted.
Deputy Chief Nitin Patel said the government had ordered a detailed inquiry. “Anyone found responsible for the incident won’t be spared,” Nitin Patel said.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani ordered the principal secretary of the Urban Development department to rush to the spot.
Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia has demanded a judicial inquiry in the matter.
News channel Tv9 Gujarati said authorities in some other Gujarat cities had gone into damage control mode. In Rajkot, officials carried out fire hazard checks at establishments housing coaching centres. In another Gujarat city Vadodara, the TV channel said tuition centres had been shut down by authorities. Media reports about fire safety hazards in other establishments prompted Ahmedabad police to ask people to report unsafe places.__Hindustan Times