At least 27 people were killed and 29 more were reported missing after a fire tore through a commercial building on Friday in India’s national capital.
In a desperate bid to escape the fire, many people were seen leaping from the building, while some escaped by climbing down a rope. Others were seen hanging from windows damaged in the fire that gutted the complex in the crowded west Delhi area.
Videos on social media showed parts of the building covered in grey soot as thick smoke billowed out of the windows.
Officials at Delhi Fire Service (DFS) said they received the first call alerting them to the fire around 4.40pm after which they rushed two dozen fire tenders to the spot.
The videos showed firefighters trying to rescue the people trapped inside using stairs, cranes and ropes, while other rangers tried to bring the fire under control.
By night, when the officials managed to get inside the building, they found charred remains, reported The Indian Express.
Rescue operations were underway on Saturday morning for the missing people. Fire officials present on Saturday said the death toll is likely to reach 30 as they have recovered more remains.
The fire spread rapidly on the premises as the building contained lots of plastic material, officials from DFS said. They added that a meeting of 50 people was going on when the fire broke out. But since the door was locked, they were trapped inside.
Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal reached the site on Saturday morning and said his administration has ordered an investigation into the incident. Stating that the “those found responsible in the findings will not be spared”, Mr Kejriwal announced a payment of 100,000 Indian rupees (£1,052) for the families of the victims and a state compensation of 50,000 Indian rupees (£526) for the injured.
“It was a massive fire, many people were killed, and their bodies were charred to the extent that they could not be identified. We have deployed help to identify the missing and the dead,” he said.
Delhi police arrested building owners Harish Goel and his brother Varun Goel shortly after detaining them, deputy commissioner of police Sameer Sharma said.
“Action will be taken against everyone who did something wrong or didn’t follow rules. We will do proper investigation and action will be taken against officers too if they’re found culpable,” Mr Sharma said.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences, saying he was “extremely saddened” by the “tragic” incident. “My thoughts are with the bereaved families. I wish the injured a speedy recovery,” Mr Modi said.
India’s national disaster response force was also called in to speed up the rescue operations.
The force’s assistant commandant Vikash Saini said: “The search operation is going on continuously. We have found small parts of bodies on the second floor. I think the search operation would be complete in 3-4 hours.”