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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 in a four-story commercial building in India’s capital, killing 27 people and injuring 12 others, police and firefighters announced on Saturday.
Police have registered a case of culpable homicide not constituting murder and criminal association punishable by life imprisonment or 10 years in prison.
The building had no clearance from firefighters and it was not equipped with fire safety equipment like fire extinguishers, said Atul Garg, director of the Delhi fire service.
Garg said the fire started Friday evening on the first floor of the building and quickly spread to other areas where flammable plastic materials used to make equipment, including security cameras and a large amount of cardboard used for packaging.
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At least 50 people were rescued from the building, which contains mostly stores, the fire control room said. The building is located in the Mundka district of western New Delhi.
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Fires are common in India, where building laws and safety standards are often flouted by builders and residents. In 2019, a fire caused by an electrical short circuit 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 the speedy recovery of 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 local resident, said the building had only one exit door and those trapped found it difficult to leave quickly due to crushing. “They called ambulances and firefighters used crane buckets to rescue people,” he said.
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Satbir Lakra, another resident, said several men and women broke glass walls and jumped downstairs.
The building is located in an area congested with industrial units and firefighters were slow to reach the location, Garg said.
Twenty-seven fire engines extinguished the flames after battling for more than five hours. A search operation continued overnight to search for anyone trapped in the rubble, the fire control room said.
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The cause of the fire was not immediately determined 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 started by an electrical short circuit.