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World & Nation

Devastating fire kills at least 43 in Indian capital

India fire
A fire engine sits near the site of a blaze in a narrow lane in New Delhi on Dec. 8, 2019.
(Manish Swarup / Associated Press)

At least 43 people died on Sunday in a devastating fire that broke out in a building in a crowded grain market area in central New Delhi, police said.

Firefighters fought the blaze from 100 yards away because it broke out in one of the area’s many alleyways, tangled in electrical wire and too narrow for vehicles to access, authorities said.

Dr. Kishore Singh of a government-run hospital said the victims were brought to the hospital by rescuers. An additional 16 people were being treated for burns or smoke inhalation. They are in stable condition, Singh said.

The cause of the fire, which erupted about 5:30 a.m., is being investigated.

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Fire Services Chief Atul Garg said the blaze was put out by 25 firetrucks and the rescue operation completed.

About 60 people, including casualties, were taken out of the building, said police spokesman Arun Kumar Mittal.

The Press Trust of India news agency quoted Manoj, who uses one name, as saying that his 18-year-old brother Naveen was working in a handbag manufacturing unit in the building.

“I got a call from his friend informing that he has been injured in the incident. I have no clue which hospital he has been taken to,” he said.

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Manoj Tiwari, a Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker from New Delhi, said most of the casualties occurred on the third floor of the building.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the fire as “extremely horrific.”

“My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. Wishing the injured a quick recovery,” Modi tweeted. Authorities are providing all possible assistance at the site of the tragedy, he said.

Fires are common in India, where building laws and safety norms are often flouted by builders and residents.

In 1997, a fire in a movie theater in New Delhi killed 59 people. In February, 17 people were killed in a New Delhi fire in a six-story hotel that started in an unauthorized rooftop kitchen.


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