At least 20 students have been killed and several other injured so far as a massive fire broke out on the third and fourth floor of a coaching centre building in Sarthana area of Surat in Gujarat on Friday, said Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel. In a terrifying video surfaced online, some young students can be seen coming out of the windows of a coaching class and jumping off from the third and fourth floors amid thick smoke coming out from the building.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said at least 19 students have died in the fire, but Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel has put the figure at 20. "As per the information received, 20 students have died in the fire. Many others were injured and shifted to a hospital," Patel said. Students, mostly teenagers, died "either due to suffocation or jumping off from the complex", he said.
"We have ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident. We will not spare those found guilty," the deputy chief minister added.
Coaching classes at the centre were run in a shade built on the top floor of the building, he said, adding that they "will check if the construction was illegal". Ninteen fire tenders and two hydraulic platforms were pressed into service to douse the fire, said an official of Surat fire control room.
Eye-witnesses claimed that there were around 50 students in the complex when the fire started.
"Around 10 students on fourth and third floor jumped off to the ground to save themselves from fire and smoke," said a fire official.
Locals helped in the rescue operation to save the stranded students and other occupants of the building. According to a fire official, flames started from the ground floor and reached the top floor, forcing some students to take shelter on the terrace which was covered.
"Lot of smoke accumulated on the top floor where there were AC compressors and tyres which too caught fire. There was no escape route available for the students who got trapped on the top floors. The fire was doused in one hour. There were no safety equipment installed in the building," a fire official told the media.
Locals were seen helping in the rescue operation to save stranded students as well as other occupants of the four-storey building.
"Students on fourth and third floor jumped off to the ground to save themselves from fire and smoke. Many have been rescued and sent to hospital. The operation to douse the fire is on," said a fire official.
Reacting to the incident, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy in Surat. My thoughts are with bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. Have asked the Gujarat Government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected."
Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy in Surat. My thoughts are with bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. Have asked the Gujarat Government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 24, 2019
Rupani ordered the principal secretary of the Urban Development department to rush to the spot, conduct an inquiry and give a report within three days.
He expressed grief over the incident and declared a financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh each to the family members of the deceased.
Meanwhile, municipal authorities in Ahmedabad ordered closure of all coaching classes till further orders to check whether they follow fire safety norms.
(With PTI inputs)