Surat fire: Police arrests owner of coaching centre after blaze kills 20; builders remain at large

Police have arrested the owner of the Surat coaching centre in which a massive fire had erupted Friday claiming lives of 20 people, mostly teenage students. Two builders of the commercial Takshashila Complex in Sarthana area, the site of the inferno, are on the run, Surat Police Commissioner Satish Sharma told reporters Saturday.

"Police registered an FIR under various sections (of the Indian Penal Code) against three persons last night. They include two builders and the owner of the coaching class. We have arrested one person. 20 persons have so far died in the incident," he said. The accused coaching class owner has been identified as Bhargav Butani, and the builders as Harshul Vekaria and Jignesh Paliwal.

 Surat fire: Police arrests owner of coaching centre after blaze kills 20; builders remain at large

Surat: Firefighters attempt to douse a fire in Takshashila Complex. PTI

"We have already arrested Butani. Hunt is on to nab the remaining two," Sharma said. A massive fire had engulfed the four-storey commercial complex in Surat.

Most of the victims included teenage students. While some of them died of suffocation, many due to injuries sustained after jumping off windows to escape the fire.

In a video clip of the incident, some young students at the Takshashila Complex can be seen jumping off the third and fourth floors amid plumes of thick smoke.

According to eyewitnesses, at least 10 students had jumped out to save themselves from the blaze. The state government had ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident.

Meanwhile, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani Friday ordered a fire safety audit of schools, colleges and coaching centres following the massive blaze.  Visiting the site of the tragedy, Rupani said the audit would find out if educational establishments in the state have proper equipment and facilities to deal with fire incidents.

He said the fire audit would also cover hospitals, malls and other commercial buildings of major cities and towns in the state.

The incident occurred on Friday evening when locals saw around 10 students on fourth and third floor jumping off to the ground to save themselves from fire and smoke. Locals helped in the rescue operation to save the stranded students and other occupants of the building.

According to a fire official, flames started from the ground floor and reached the top floor, forcing some students to take shelter on the terrace which was covered.

"Lot of smoke accumulated on the top floor where there were AC compressors and tyres, which too caught fire. There was no escape route available for the students who got trapped on the top floors. The fire was doused in one hour. There were no safety equipment installed in the building," a fire official told the media.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguished over the fire tragedy. "Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy in Surat. My thoughts are with bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. Have asked the Gujarat government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected," Modi tweeted.

Rupani ordered the principal secretary of the Urban Development department to rush to the spot, conduct an inquiry and give a report within three days. He expressed grief over the incident and declared a financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh each to the family members of the deceased. Meanwhile, municipal authorities in Ahmedabad ordered closure of all coaching classes till further orders to check whether they follow fire safety norms.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: May 25, 2019 13:44:00 IST