Police arrest 2 after building fire, 27 dead in New Delhi

NEW DELHI (AP) – Police have arrested two owners of a company that manufactures and sells security cameras after a massive fire reportedly started at their office in a four-storey commercial building in the Indian capital, killing 27 and 12 others were injured, police and firefighters said Saturday.

Police registered a case of culpable homicide that does not amount to murder and a criminal conspiracy that is punishable by life imprisonment or 10 years in prison.

The building did not have permission from the fire service and it was not equipped with fire protection equipment such as fire extinguishers, said Atul Garg, director of Delhi Fire Services.

Garg said the fire started on the first floor of the building Friday night and quickly spread to other areas that housed flammable plastic material used to make equipment, including security cameras and a large amount of cardboard used for packaging.

At least 50 people were rescued from the building, which mainly contains shops, the fire control room said. The building is located in the Mundka area of ​​western New Delhi.

Fires are common in India, where building laws and safety standards are often violated by builders and residents. In 2019, a fire caused by an electrical short engulfed a building in New Delhi, killing 43 people.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was saddened by the loss of life and wished the 12 injured who were hospitalized a speedy recovery.

Harish Goel and his brother Varun Goe were first detained for questioning and later arrested, the Press Trust of India reported, citing police officer Sameer Sharma.

Sachin Garg, a resident in the area, said the building only had one exit door and people trapped there found it difficult to leave quickly because of a crush. “They called ambulances and firefighters used crane buckets to rescue people,” he said.

Satbir Lakra, another resident, said several men and women had smashed glass walls and jumped to the ground floor.

The building is in a congested area with industrial units, and the fire engines took time to reach the site, Garg said.

Twenty-seven fire trucks have extinguished the flames after more than five hours of fighting. A search continued overnight to look for people trapped in the rubble, the fire control room said.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear and is under investigation.

Garg said there were conflicting reports. Some said the fire started after an explosion in an air conditioner and others said it was caused by an electrical short.

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