As 17 people died in Tuesday’s massive fire that engulfed hotel Arpit Palace in central Delhi’s Karol Bagh and with various departments including fire and police, passing the blame from one to another, sources have pointed out that the budget hotel failed to uphold safety standards and flouted regulations.
The license to operate bar was given to the hotel owners for the ground floor, however, the property’s terrace had a kitchen for staff, which was converted into a bar for parties, sources said.
“Gas cylinders and an airconditioning plant both were on the terrace or top floor. There is heavy wooden panelling in the room. According to eyewitnesses, the smoke alarm did not work. There is no clear idea about a fire exit. The fire department claims they had a no objection certificate, but did not say anything about whether yearly safety audit was done or not,” sources added.
At least 17 people, including a child, were killed and 11 others injured in the fire.
“The fire broke out at around 2.30 am. It was a minor fire. The staff tried to control it on their own. But it soon spread. First call to fire at four am.” sources said.
It has been further alleged that the “glass windows were jammed.”
“The windows failed to open when frightened guests attempted to open them. The guests then ran back into their room. In the room, bodies were found with clasped hands. Some bodies were found under the table. A woman’s body was found with her child in a room. All electric plug points were loose. Fire spread from room no 109,” the sources said.
One of the dead has been identified as Suresh Kumar, a 45 year old Indian Revenue Service officer. Kumar, an assistant commissioner in the Income Tax department, jumped from the fourth floor and suffered serious wounds on his head. The resident of Panchkula who was taken to hospital was later declared dead.
According to the Delhi Fire Department, 35 people were rescued from the hotel.
The Delhi Hotel Association claimed that all fire safety norms were followed and that a licence was issued only after inspection of Hotel Arpit Palace.
Speaking to ANI, Delhi Hotel Association vice president Balan Mani said that the unfortunate incident took place due to fire in ducting because of which it spread to the hotel rooms.”It was due to fire in ducting because of which it had spread to the hotel rooms. All norms were followed here, the licence was issued only after inspection. A mishap can occur in a house as well,” Mani said.
However, sources claim that the :hotel owners were provided NOC only for running a guest house, but the hotel was functioning. Fire department remains mum on whether any safety audit done or why this gross violation not noticed in the first place. The hotel has been running over 25 years.”
Looking at the NoC, the civil agency provided a health license. “It could not explain why and how these blatant violations were not noticed,” sources claimed.
The hotel was also provided with a liquor license from the Delhi Police.
“The liquor license shouldn’t have been granted because this was a guest house. Moreover, it was for ground floor but alcohol was served inside the basement and terrace,” sources said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders have expressed their condolences to the kin of people who died in the fire.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the accident and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of the people who lost their lives in the accident.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar has said, strict action would be taken against those found guilty. “This is a five-storey building and there is a temporary above it. The roof of the temporary construction is covered with a fibre sheet which is the reason for the fire. Most people died due to suffocation.”
Union Minister J J Alphons met the victims of the fire admitted to the RML hospital and and said he asked the police commissioner to speed up the procedure of investgating the source of fire.
BJP’s Manoj Tiwari, Meenakshi Lekhi, and Congress leader KC Venugopal were among those who visited the RML hospital where those injured in the fire were admitted to.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)