NEW DELHI (AP) – Police have arrested two owners of a company that manufactures and sells security cameras after a massive fire reportedly broke out in their office at a four-story office building in the Indian capital, killing 27 people and injuring 12 others. police and firefighters said on Saturday.
Police have registered a case of wrongful death not equating to murder and a criminal conspiracy that is punishable by life imprisonment or 10 years in prison.
The building did not have a permit from the fire department and was not equipped with fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, said Atul Garg, director of the Delhi Fire Department.
Garg said the fire started on the first floor of the building on Friday night and quickly spread to other areas where flammable plastic material used to make equipment, including security cameras and a large amount of cardboard used for packaging, was stored.
At least 50 people were rescued from the building, which contains mostly shops, the fire control room said. The building is located in the Mundka area of western New Delhi.
Fires are common in India, where building laws and safety regulations are often flouted by builders and residents. In 2019, a fire caused by an electrical short engulfed a building in New Delhi and killed 43 people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was saddened by the loss of life and wished a speedy recovery for the 12 injured who were hospitalized.
Harish Goel and his brother Varun Goe were first detained for questioning and then arrested, the Press Trust of India reported, citing police officer Sameer Sharma.
Sachin Garg, a resident of the area, said the building had only one exit door, and people trapped there had trouble getting out quickly because of the overcrowding. “They called ambulances and firefighters used crane buckets to rescue people,” he said.
Satbir Lakra, another resident, said several men and women broke glass walls and jumped to the ground floor.
The building is located in an area congested with industrial units and fire engines were slow to arrive, Garg said.
Twenty-seven fire engines doused the flames after fighting for more than five hours. A search operation continued overnight to look for anyone trapped in the rubble, the fire control room said.
The cause of the fire was not immediately clarified and is being investigated.
Garg said there were conflicting reports. Some said the fire started after an explosion in an air conditioner and others said it was triggered by an electrical short.