A massive fire engulfed a four-storey commercial complex in Surat on Friday, killing 20 teenage students at a coaching centre, many of whom jumped and fell to their deaths while some were suffocated, officials said.
Several injuries were also reported.
TV channels showed horrific scenes at the Takshashila Complex in Sarthana area where the building is located, as students tried to save themselves by jumping out of windows.
“Eighteen students have died either due to suffocation or jumping from the building when fire engulfed the commercial complex,” Gujarat minister of state for health Kishor Kanani said.
“We have ordered a detailed inquiry and anyone found responsible for the incident won’t be spared,” Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said.
“Several students on the fourth and third floor jumped off to the ground to save themselves from fire and smoke. Many have been sent to hospital. The operation to douse the fire is on,” said a city fire official.
A video clip aired by news channels showed students jumping off from third and fourth floor windows amid plumes of thick smoke rising from the building.
Nineteen fire tenders and two hydraulic platforms were pressed into service for dousing and rescue operations, Sarthana area of Surat, said an official of Surat fire control room.
Local people helped with the rescue operation to save stranded students and other occupants of the building housing coaching classes and other establishments.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani ordered the principal secretary of the Urban Development department to rush to the spot.
He also declared financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh each for the family members of those who died in the incident.
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,” Modi tweeted.
Police have arrested the owner of the Surat coaching centre. Two builders of the commercial Takshashila Complex in Sarthana area, the site of the inferno, are on the run, Surat Police Commissioner Satish Sharma told reporters Saturday.
“Police registered an FIR under various sections (of the Indian Penal Code) against three persons last night. They include two builders and the owner of the coaching class. We have arrested one person. 20 persons have so far died in the incident,” he said.
The accused coaching class owner has been identified as Bhargav Butani, and the builders as Harshul Vekaria and Jignesh Paliwal. “We have already arrested Butani. Hunt is on to nab the remaining two,” Sharma said.