(SKY NEWS) — Seventeen people were killed and four were injured when a fire engulfed a hotel in New Delhi while most guests were sleeping.
The blaze at the Arpit Palace Hotel in western New Delhi has been extinguished and authorities are investigating what caused it.
“We have to check the stability of the structure, check every room,” deputy police commissioner Mandeep Singh Randhawa said.
Most of the victims were sleeping when the fire broke out, engulfing every floor of the five-story hotel but the ground floor, a fire official said.
Officials said hotel guests had tried to escape the fire through the hotel’s narrow corridors, panelled in wood. Some were able to break through the windows of their rooms.
Around 35 people were rescued from the hotel and the injured were taken to local hospitals.
“Seventeen people are no more, they died because of suffocation, not fire,” said deputy fire chief Virendra Singh.
The dead include a woman and a child who had tried to escape by jumping from a fifth-floor window of the 65-room hotel.
Among the rescued was hotel guest Sivanand Chand, 43, who suddenly woke up at 4am struggling to breathe.
He said: “When I got out of my room, I could hear ‘help, help!’ from adjoining rooms.”
He added that he opened the window and saw flames rising very fast.
“In 15 minutes, the whole room was black”.
The rescue took around 30 minutes as fire engine ladders could not initially reach Mr Chand’s floor.
Hotel guests included a group of tourists from Myanmar, broadcaster NDTV said, adding that authorities were searching for them.
The hotel is located in Karol Bagh, an area full of shops and budget hotels that is popular with tourists in India’s capital.
The fire is believed to have been caused by a short circuit, Reuters reported.
It raised fresh questions about safety standards in poorly regulated budget hotels.
Frequent raids by civic authorities to enforce building codes and fire safety measures have failed to curb violations in the rapidly expanding city of more than 18 million people.
Delhi’s urban development minister Satyendar Jain said authorities appeared to have been negligent in enforcing building laws in the surrounding area of the hotel.
“There is a clear case of negligence here,” he said.
Mr Jain said that the hotel’s fifth floor violated the law which limits construction to four floors.
Like some nearby structures, the hotel had a kitchen and dining area on its top floor which constituted another violation.