There were at least 60 students in four different coaching centres at Taxshila Arcade in Gujarat’s Surat when the fire broke out there around 4 pm on Friday.
Urmila Patel (15), along with a dozen others, jumped off the building to escape the blaze and smoke. All of them were admitted to hospital with injuries.
The cause of the fire, that killed at least 19 students, was not immediately known although officials suspected a short-circuit in the electrical wiring.
This is the second incident of fire in coaching centres of Surat in the past four months.
“We were on the fourth and top floor. Suddenly, there was smoke all around. We found it extremely difficult to breathe. We shouted for help…I called out for my mother and rushed toward the only staircase. But stairs were also engulfed in fire,’’ said Urmila.
“Like all others, I and my other friend rushed back to the room…we had no option but to jump. I saw others jumping off and followed them,” she added.
She is undergoing treatment at P P Savani Hospital for injuries in thighs, back and head.
Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel put the death toll at 17. Chief minister Vijay Rupani, who reached Surat around 9 pm, said, “Strict instructions have been given to check all sorts of building across the state for any kind of irregularities. No irregularities will be tolerated”.
Also read | 17 teens die in Surat coaching centre fire; 15 jumped off building. Many survived
He added that principal secretary, urban development, will conduct the inquiry into the matter, including cause of the fire and strict actions will be taken against those responsible.
The fire brigade officials said there were AC compressors and some discarded tyres lying on the floor, which intensified the fire in no time. “The cause of the fire is subject of investigation,” said one of the fire officials.
According to the fire brigade, the building had permission for only two floors and the two additional floors were constructed illegally.
“What I experienced was hell. I do not know for how long I was in the building and what made me jump off. All I remember was everyone was crying for help. After jumping off, I thought I was dead,” said 15-year-old Happy Panchali.
Eyewitnesses said that the fire brigade did not have the required equipment. “The ladder that the fire brigade brought in was not long enough to reach the third-fourth floor. Besides, if there was a net, more students would have been saved,” Himmat Jiyani, one of the students.
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation announced that no coaching centre will function without proper inspection. The Rajkot Municipal Corporation also made similarly announcement.
Health minister Kishor Kanani, who also hails from Surat, admitted that grave violations have been committed. “We accept that rules have been flouted and broken. There have been negligence…but severe actions will be taken [against the guilty],” Kanani said.
May 24, 2019 23:49 IST
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