India college fire kills at least 17 students

Fire rips through Gujarat collegeImage copyright
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The fire ripped through classrooms in the building in the western state of Gujarat

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 to 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.

“The students lost their life both because of the fire and jumping out of the building,” Deepak Sapthaley, a local fire official, told AFP.

Surat’s fire and emergency services commissioner U Upadhyay said: “The fire was caused by a short-circuit in one of the air-conditioning ducts on the ground floor… and spread to the third floor.”

All of the dead were aged below 20 years 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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