A fire has swept through a budget hotel in New Delhi killing at least 17 people, authorities say, raising fresh questions about safety standards in the poorly regulated budget accommodation market.
Most of the victims were sleeping in the Arpit Palace Hotel when the fire broke out, and it was believed to have been caused by a short circuit, according to media reports.
The dead included a woman and a child who tried to escape by jumping from a fifth-floor window of the 65-room hotel in the shopping district of Karol Bagh. Part of the building had been booked by a wedding party.
Television showed pictures of flames leaping from the top floor. Twenty-five fire engines responded to the blaze.
"We have to check the stability of the structure, check every room," Deputy Police Commissioner Mandeep Singh Randhawa said.
A further 35 people had been rescued, authorities confirmed.
Karol Bagh, filled with shops and budget hotels, is popular with tourists. Those staying in the hotel included a group of tourists from Myanmar, broadcaster NDTV said, adding that the authorities were trying to locate them.
Frequent raids by civic authorities to enforce building codes, fire safety measures and evacuation procedures in New Delhi have failed to curb violations in this rapidly expanding city of more than 18 million people.
Delhi's urban development minister Satyendar Jain said authorities appeared to have been negligent in enforcing building laws in the surrounding area. "There is a clear case of negligence here," he added.
Even though the law limits construction to four floors, the hotel had a fifth floor, like some other nearby structures, Mr Jain said, adding that the kitchen and dining area on its top floor constituted another violation.
Reuters could not immediately reach hotel officials to seek comment.
Mr Jain said hotel guests tried to flee through the hotel's narrow corridors, panelled in wood. Some were unable to break through the windows of their rooms.
- Reuters / AP