India

Surat Tragedy: Fire Engines Took 45 Minutes To Travel 2 Km, Say Onlookers

Surat Tragedy: Fire Engines Took 45 Minutes To Travel 2 Km, Say Onlookers
Surat: 

At least 20 people, mostly students, have died in the massive fire that broke out at a coaching centre in Gujarat's Surat on Friday afternoon. Police have arrested the man who used to conduct the tuition classes and have registered a case against the coaching centre owner and builders of the complex.

"20 people have died and more than 20 have been injured in the fire that broke out in Surat yesterday. An FIR has been registered against three people," Satish Sharma, Commissioner of Police Surat, said.

Two of the injured students were on ventilator and five have been admitted to intensive care units (ICU), news agency IANS reported.

The fire reportedly started near the staircase of the interior design coaching centre and quickly spread to the top two floors of the commercial building called Takshashila Arcade in the Sarthana area of the city, officials said. About 50 or 60 people were inside the building when the fire broke out, they added. Some were expecting their Class 12 results today, IANS reported.

"There was smoke. I did not know what to do. I took the ladder and first helped the children get out of the place. I managed to save 8-10 people. Later I managed to rescue two more students," said an eyewitness.

He said that it took the fire brigade 40-45 minutes to reach the place despite the fire station being just 2 km away from the building. The father of a girl rescued from the building also questioned their response time. "My daughter was inside the building when the fire broke out. The fire brigade from the fire station, which is not more than 2 km away, took almost 45 minutes to come. Even though my daughter got saved, she is in a state of trauma," Paresh Patel, father of the rescued girl, was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

Another witness, Ajay Patel, whose office is opposite the building that caught fire, said the casualty could have reduced had the fire brigade come prepared. "The pressure of their pipe was too low to douse the flame," he said. 

Videos posted by witnesses on social media showed several students jumping out of windows on the top floor of the four-storey building to escape the blaze. Most of the students are said to be between the ages of 15 and 21. The fire was reportedly triggered by a short circuit.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has ordered an investigation and announced financial help of 4 lakh each to the families of students who died in the tragedy.

"Twenty people have lost their lives in the tragedy in spite of our rescue efforts. Students of around 20 years of age were trapped in the coaching centre when a fire broke out in the stairway," Mr Rupani said.

"We have asked the Urban Development and Urban Housing Department Principal Secretary, Mukesh Puri to immediately investigate and submit a report upon the matter. State Government will provide Rs 4 lakh financial help to families of kids who died," he added.