Towering Flames And Blocked Exits Leave 17 Dead At New Delhi Hotel
NEW DELHI — Huge flames shot up from the hotel’s rooftop. Thick smoke clogged the hallways.
As panicked guests searched for a way out, they found, to their terror, that the emergency exits were locked.
This is how witnesses and government officials described the scene inside a five-story hotel in central New Delhi as fire swept through its corridors on Tuesday morning, killing at least 17 people.
Some guests said they had to lean out their windows to breathe — the smoke was that thick. Others were trapped in engulfed rooms and climbed out of their windows and jumped, with some suffering severe injuries.
A preliminary investigation indicated that the fire, at the Arpit Palace Hotel, in the heart of India’s capital, was caused by a short circuit. Some guests said that the power had abruptly cut out around 3:30 a.m., and that when it returned, smoke began to fill the hallways.
“We just took a look at the emergency exits. It’s all illegal,’’ K.J. Alphons, India’s tourism minister, told reporters. “Even if people came to the emergency exit, they could not have escaped, as it was too narrow and it was locked anyway.”
India has suffered horrible building fires recently, and lax enforcement of the fire safety code has cost many lives.
In December 2017, at least 14 people died at a popular rooftop restaurant in Mumbai after a fire broke out, igniting cloth canopies that collapsed on people’s heads. At that restaurant, witnesses said there were no sprinklers, no fire extinguishers and no clearly marked exits.
The fire on Tuesday was put out within a few hours. The Arpit Palace Hotel is less than three miles from the prime minister’s office and other important government buildings. By Tuesday afternoon, the hotel was a wet, charred and smoking husk.
Some witnesses said the fire started on the first floor and swiftly moved floor to floor.
Satyendar Jain, a minister in the Delhi government, told reporters that the hotel had constructed an illegal kitchen and terrace area on the roof of the building. He called the fire a “major case of carelessness.”
Most of the casualties were on the third and fourth floors, said Atul Garg, a Delhi fire official.
Reviews on TripAdvisor are varied, with one calling it the “worst hotel in Delhi” and another depicting it as “old but maintained and value for money.’’ An average room cost around $45 a night, midrange in New Delhi.
The hotel’s website shows a rooftop terrace and nice plants by the lobby.
The website says, “We at Arpit Palace understand the need of the jet age client and give high attention toward safety and security of our guests.’’