At least 20 teenage students were killed when a fire broke out in a tutoring centre in a four-storey commercial building in the city of Surat in India’s western state of Gujarat, police said.
“As per the information received, 20 students have died in the fire. Many others were injured and shifted to a hospital,” India Today reported Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said.
He said students, mostly teenagers, died “either due to suffocation or jumping off from the complex.”
Police said more than a dozen students were hospitalized with burns.
The students were attending a class when the fire broke out in the four-story building, according to police.
Video posted on social media and television images showed some students jumping from the building to escape the fire. Thick smoke was seen billowing from the building.
The fire engulfed the third and fourth floors of the building in a shopping district, according to The Press Trust of India news agency.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was anguished by the fire, adding that he asked the Gujarat Government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, however, an initial investigation suggests the fire was caused by a short-circuit, India Today reported.
A fire official told the media a lot of smoke accumulated on the top floor “where there were AC compressors and tires 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,” the fire official said.
“We have ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident. We will not spare those found guilty,” Patel said.
Building fires are reportedly common in India because of poorly enforced safety regulations.