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India tuition centre fire kills 20 in Gujarat state

  • 25 May 2019
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Media captionFlames and smoke poured from the building

At least 20 people, most of them students attending private tuition classes, have died in a fire in India, officials said.

Students were seen jumping and falling from the commercial building in the western city of Surat as black smoke billowed from windows.

The fire is believed to have been started by an electrical fault in the air conditioning, officials said.

Police said one of the owners of the tuition centre had been arrested.

Surat police chief Satish Sharma told reporters that three people in total had been charged with culpable homicide and that the two others would be arrested soon. As anger mounted in the local community, he appealed to people to remain calm and not take the law into their own hands.

At least 20 other people suffered serious injuries in the fire and were being treated in hospital in Gujarat.

More than 50 students were said to have been in classes on the top floor of the building when fire broke out. Five had been due to receive exam results for university places on Saturday, officials said.

Image copyright AFP Image caption These students in Amritsar held a candle-light vigil for the victims

Local resident Ketan Chodvadiya, 22, has been hailed as a hero after he was caught on film trying to rescue students.

He described being unable to help one girl, who died, but said he managed to help at least eight others escape.

All of the dead were younger than 20, and many were trapped because the fire began near a staircase, Reuters reported.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences on Twitter.

An inquiry into the incident has been ordered and a report is expected within three days, said the spokesman for the office of Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.

The fire is the latest in a long line of deadly blazes in India. In February at least 17 people died in a Delhi hotel fire.

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