Surat: 21 killed as fire engulfs commercial complex

Ahmedabad: In a major tragedy, 21 students perished in a fire that engulfed a commercial complex in Surat on Friday, where a coaching class was in progress; numerous others have been hospitalised. There were more than 50 students, mostly in their teens, attending the tuition class when the fire broke out in the building; they were trapped on the third and fourth floors.

By last count, about 21 of them have perished, some of them, when they jumped off the building to escape the fire and swirling flames. TV channels showed horrific scenes as students tried to save themselves by jumping out of windows. “Eighteen students have died either due to asphyxia or jumping from the building,’’ Gujarat minister of state for health Kishor Kanani said.

Disturbing visuals also showed some people on the pavement asking the students to jump, hoping to catch them. Among those seen falling was a young child. Most of the students are said to be between 14 and 17 years of age. At least 20 others are in hospital and undergoing treatment.

The fire brigade was still battling the flames when reports last trickled in. Nineteen fire tenders and two hydraulic platforms have been pressed into service The coaching classes at the centre were run in a shade built on the top floor of the building; it is not clear whether the construction was illegal.

According to a fire official, the fire erupted on the ground floor and reached the top floor, forcing some students to take shelter on the terrace which was covered. People in the vicinity rushed to the building to help. In fact, it were they who first reached out and helped in the rescue operations.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani rushed to Surat and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakhs to the next of kin of the deceased. The Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot and Surat municipal commissioners have ordered an immediate closure of all coaching centres, dance classes and summer camps in the areas under their domain until further orders.

A fire safety audit of all commercial premises has been ordered. In Ahmedabad, a fire safety compliance certificate from the fire brigade and the Ahmedabad police has been made compulsory. Union health minister JP Nadda was on the telephone with chief minister Rupani and has directed the AIMS trauma centre director to render all help. “My thoughts are with bereaved families.

May the injured recover quickly; I Have asked the Gujarat Government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected,” Modi tweeted. The urban development department of the state government has been directed to carry out an inquiry into the entire matter forthwith.

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