At least 19 people died and several were injured after a fire broke out at a coaching centre in Surat, Gujarat, on Friday evening, the Hindustan Times reported. Rescue operations are currently underway.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said at least 19 people died in the blaze, according to PTI. But Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel put the toll at 20. “As per the information received, 20 students have died in the fire,” he said. “Many others were injured and shifted to a hospital.”
Patel said the students, mostly teenagers, died due to suffocation or because they jumped off the building. He said that the state has ordered a detailed inquiry into the matter and promised to penalise anyone found responsible for the incident.
At least 18 people were rescued and rushed to the Surat Municipal Institute of Medical Education and Research, The Times of India reported, citing fire and rescue services personnel. As many as 19 fire engines and two hydraulic platforms were rushed to the spot to douse the fire, NDTV reported.
Rupani, who visited the hospital, told reporters: “I’m told that due to fire in the staircase, several people jumped from the 4th floor of the building to escape.”
In a bid to save themselves, several people tried to jump out of the top floor of the building in the city’s Sarthana area, Surat Police Commissioner Satish Kumar Mishra said, according to the Hindustan Times. Video footage showed a thick cloud of smoke emerging from the Takshashila Complex in Sarthana.
“Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy in Surat,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted. “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.”
Bharatiya Janata Party National President Amit Shah asked party workers to help people in need. “Deeply anguished by the loss of lives due to a tragic fire accident in Surat, Gujarat,” he tweeted. “My condolences with the bereaved families. I pray for the speedy recovery of those injured. I urge our karyakartas of BJP Surat unit to assist the people in need.”
The Centre has constituted a team of doctors from the burns and trauma centre of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, and put it on alert, ANI reported. Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare JP Nadda spoke to Rupani about the incident.
“CM has...declared financial help of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of children who died in this incident,” the Gujarat Chief Minister’s Office said.
“My prayers are with all those affected,” Rupani tweeted. “May those who have been injured recover at the earliest. I pray for the departed souls.”