Fourteen killed in apartment fire at Indian wedding gathering in Dhanbad

Three children among dead in fire at apartment complex in Jharkhand state

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

At least 14 people including several women and three children were killed in a fire at an apartment complex in India’s eastern Jharkhand state, where they had gathered for a wedding, police said.

Twelve people were severely burnt as at least 18 were rescued from the 13-storey Ashirwad Tower in Dhanbad city late on Tuesday.

Police said many injured were taken to the city's government hospital.

“Fourteen people died and 12 others were injured in the fire. Several people were in the apartment to attend a marriage function,” Sanjeev Kumar, city police chief, told The National.

“The cause of the fire is yet to be known. We are focusing on rescue. The injured were shifted to a nearby hospital. They are all stable.”

It took nearly two hours and a dozen fire crews to extinguish the flames.

In television footage, several policemen are seen escorting the people including children from the building to safety.

The blaze broke out in the apartment of Subodh Srivastav on the fourth floor of the residential complex, reportedly from an earthen lamp lit as part of the wedding celebration, local media reported.

Mr Srivastav’s daughter had left for the marriage hall when the fire broke out, reportedly killing his wife and mother.

The bride was unaware of the incident, police said.

"The marriage ceremony was underway at the time of the incident. At least six people from the bride’s family were killed in the tragic incident," Mr Kumar said.

Some residents reportedly tried to jump out of the window to escape the blaze.

"We were getting ready when people started screaming…there was the fire. We tried to run out using the stairs but there was a sudden power outage. There was darkness everywhere, but somehow we managed to escape," Poonam Devi, one of the guests attending the wedding celebration, told local media.

Some bodies were reportedly charred beyond recognition and family members were finding it difficult to identify them.

Dr UK Ojha, head of the medicine department at the Shahid Nirmal Mahto Medical College, where the postmortem of the bodies was conducted, said that one family identified the body of a woman from her sari.

Mr Kumar said that a team of police, forensics and town planning department were working at the spot to ascertain the cause of the fire.

The Jharkhand High Court on Wednesday suo motto issued a notice to the government seeking a report on the tragedy.

Prime minister Narendra Modi expressed condolences for the victims. He announced a compensation of 200,000 rupees ($2,500) to the bereaved families of those killed and 50,000 rupees for those injured.

“Deeply anguished by the loss of lives due to a fire in Dhanbad. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover soon,” Mr Modi's office tweeted.

It was the second fire tragedy in the city in less than a week.

At least five people were killed after a fire broke out at the storeroom of a private hospital on Saturday.

India has a poor fire safety record and incidents are common across the country, where lax enforcement of building laws has led to numerous tragedies.

Nearly 10,000 people were killed in fire accidents across the country in 2020, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, making it one of the biggest public safety hazards in the country.

India is undertaking a rapid expansion of cities and towns, where multistorey structures — both residential and commercial — operate without any official monitoring or safeguards such as fire exits and alarm systems.

The national building code and local laws mandate that businesses and residential complexes must obtain fire safety certificates that are provided after inspection to ensure they have safeguards such as fire alarms and firefighting equipment.

But across the country such rules are violated either by acquiring certificates through bribes or completely disregarding the regulations.

Updated: February 01, 2023, 1:20 PM