Ire, despair and desolation
New Delhi: The fifth floor of ‘Hotel Arpit Palace’ was being used as a rooftop restaurant which was “unauthorised”, where a massive fire snuffed 17 lives,officials said on Tuesday.
The fifth floor was sealed with a brick wall after which a fire safety certificate was issued, officials said and indicated that later the wall was demolished to run the rooftop restaurant.
“The fifth floor was sealed with brick wall when a fire safety certificate was issued to Hotel Arpit Palace on December 12, 2014,” said a Delhi Fire Service (DFS) officer.
Later, a re-inspection was done by the DFS on December 4, 2017, and the owner was “deemed complied” with fire safety norms at the hotel premises and it was declared “fit” for “occupancy class residential”(guesthouse) with effect from December 24, 2017 for a period of three years, he said.
“Apparently, the wall used to seal the fifth floor was dismantled and it was being used for a terrace restaurant,” the official said.
The fire safety certificate was issued only for basement being used as storage, ground floor which was used for a restaurant and reception, first and second floor having 12 guest rooms each, third and fourth floor having 11 guest rooms each, he added.
Man loses 3 of his kin
At 3.30am, Somshekhar and his family were preparing to leave their hotel for Haridwar. But suddenly the power went out and their rooms plunged into darkness. Before they could understand what had happened, plumes of thick smoke ran through their floor at Arpit Palace Hotel.
A foul smell created fear. Soon, they realised their lives could be in danger. Other than Somshekhar, 12 people were in the group staying at the hotel in central Delhi where a massive fire killed 17 people, including a child.
He said his sister (53), mother (84) and brother (59) died in the early-morning fire. The family had come from Ernakulam district in Kerala to attend a wedding in Ghaziabad, which comprises the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
“We have come to attend the wedding of a relative in Ghaziabad. We were planning to go to Haridwar today,” the 57-year-old said. “We were all ready early morning when there was a sudden power cut. They switched on the generator and there was heavy smoke and smell. My sister first spotted the smoke and informed us.
“The entire pathway was full of smoke and smell,” Somshekhar said. His mother and brother were with his sister that time and Somshekhar had rushed to his room to open the windows to allow the smoke to pass and to find a possible exit route. “Yesterday, we went to Vrindawan and returned late last night.
Today, we had to go to Haridwar. We had also planned to visit Amritsar and leave for Kerala on the 15th,” he said. Somshekhar said he has no knowledge what started the fire. But, he stressed, he believes negligence on part of the hotel management must have triggered the tragedy.
Babu Panikar, head of Delhi Malayali Association, said, “I got to know that Malayali's were trapped inside. I rushed to the spot to check on them. It’s a group of 13 members belonging to same family who came from Ernakulam to attend a wedding in Ghaziabad. “Around 10 of them were rescued safely, while three bodies have been identified. They are ready to go to Haridwar this morning at around 6 am. Two of them family members left for Mumbai yesterday,” he said.
Congress, BJP condole victims
Former Delhi chief minister and Congress city chief Sheila Dikshit on Tuesday met the kin of the victims of the devastating fire in a city hotel that claimed 17 lives, and demanded the setting up of a committee to probe its causes.
After meeting the family members of the dead at the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital Dikshit said, “The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi should form a committee to find out how did a huge fire break out in such a big hotel?”
Delhi BJP Chief Manoj Tiwari also visited the site of the fire and condoled the deaths. “I am deeply shocked by the death of 17 people and I pray for the speedy recovery of all those injured,” Tiwari tweeted in Hindi.
Civil servant among deceased
A 45-year-old Assistant Commissioner of the Income Tax Department was among the 17 people who lost their lives in the fire in a hotel in Delhi.
Suresh Kumar, a resident of Panchkula in Haryana, died after he jumped off from the window of his fourth-floor room at the Arpit Palace Hotel in central Delhi's Karol Bagh early on Tuesday morning. Eyewitnesses said that Kumar fell headlong and badly injured his skull. He was immediately taken to hospital, where he was declared brought dead by the doctors.