NEW DELHI: Union Minister of State for Culture, and Tourism K J Alphons on Tuesday said the emergency exit of the Arpit Palace hotel in New Delhi's Karol Bagh, where 17 people lost their lives due to a massive fire that broke out early Tuesday, was locked and 'too narrow'.
The minister made the statement after visiting the site of the tragedy in central Delhi. Alphons said that the hotel had a lot of wooden structures, which helped in the spread of fire.
"When I headed to the emergency exit, I found that it had been locked yesterday (last night). Also, it was too narrow," he told reporters. "Obviously, even if people came to the emergency exit, they could not have escaped as it was too narrow and it was locked anyway," Alphons added.
It is learnt that Alphons also spoke to the mayor of the area and ordered him to check whether all regulations were in place at the hotel.
Meanwhile, Delhi Police has registered a case under IPC Section 304 (Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) in connection with the accident. Police said name of responsible persons will be added in the case, ANI reported.
Police have also applied Section 308 of IPC (attempt to commit culpable homicide) in the case. Preliminary investigation suggested that the fire could have been cause due to a short circuit.
Of the 13 bodies, ten were identified - three from Kerala, one from Gujarat, and two from Myanmar. Officials said that efforts were on to ascertain the identity of the remaining four bodies.
Fire officials said that a majority of the deaths took place due to asphyxiation, while some died after succumbing to their burns.
The President of the Delhi Hotel and Restaurants Owners Association,Sandip Khandelwal, told PTI that fire tenders took 15-20 minutes more to reach the scene of accident because the area was barricaded for security purposes, forcing the fire tenders to take a longer route in order to reach the hotel.
Delhi government has ordered a magisterial probe and Home Minister Satyendar Jain has directed the fire department to inspect all buildings which are five floors or more and submit a report on their fire safety compliance to the government within a week.
"Seventeen people have died, most of them of suffocation. Apparently, there were lapses (from the hotel management's side). Action will taken against those found guilty," he said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also visited the spot and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of those killed. "It is a very tragic incident. It seems that there may have been some lapses. A magisterial probe has been ordered to investigate the cause of the incident," Kejriwal said.
(with PTI and ANI inputs)