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Delhi hotel fire kills at least 17, spurs safety concerns

DELHI: A fire swept through a hotel in New Delhi early yesterday, killing 17, authorities in the Indian capital said, raising questions about safety standards in poorly regulated budget hotels.

Raids by civic authorities to enforce building codes, fire safety measures and evacuation procedures have failed to curb violations in a rapidly expanding city of more than 18 million.

"Seventeen people died because of suffocation, not fire," said deputy fire chief Virendra Singh, adding that 35 people had been rescued.

Most of the victims were sleeping when the fire broke out, believed to have been caused by a short circuit, media said.

These included a woman and a child who had tried to escape by jumping from a fifth-storey window of the 65-room hotel in the shopping district of Karol Bagh, some of which had been booked by a wedding party.

Authorities appeared to have been negligent in enforcing building laws in the area, Delhi's urban development minister Satyendar Jain said.

Even though the law limits construction only to four storeys, the hotel had a fifth level, like other nearby structures, he said, adding that a kitchen and dining area on its top floor was another violation.

Mr Jain said hotel guests tried to flee through the hotel's narrow corridors. Some were unable to break through the windows of their rooms. - REUTERS

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