• Thursday, June 13, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

27 dead as fire rips through amusement park in India

Survivors reported having to kick down doors and leap out of windows to escape the inferno that swept through a crowded amusement park in Rajkot

 

Machines move debris as onlookers watch following a fire in a gaming zone in Rajkot, in the western state of Gujarat, India, May 26, 2024. REUTERS/Amit Dave

By: Shajil Kumar

Four young children were among 27 people killed when a fire in India ripped through a crowded amusement park, a top local official said Sunday, as rescuers scoured the site the morning after the blaze.

Survivors reported having to kick down doors and leap out of windows to escape the inferno that swept through a centre packed full of young people enjoying games including bowling, Indian media reported on Sunday.

Lines of bodies draped in white cloths were laid out before being taken away from the centre in Rajkot, a city in the western state of Gujarat.

The four children reported dead were all aged under 12, said police, who warned that many of the corpses were so badly burned it was difficult to identify them.

DNA samples of the bodies and the victim’s relatives have been collected for identification of the deceased.

The exact cause of the massive fire is not yet known.

Outside the still-smouldering wreckage, the mother and sister of 20-year-old Asha Kathad – who had worked in the centre – waited for news.

They held up a photograph of Asha on a mobile phone.

“We don’t have any information about her,” Asha’s mother told local reporters, too distraught to give her full name as she wept.

‘Trapped’

More than 300 people were enjoying the summer holiday weekend in the two-storey structure at the TRP amusement and theme park when the blaze broke out on Saturday evening, Rajkot fire officer Ilesh Kher told reporters on the night of the fire.

“People got trapped as a temporary structure at the facility collapsed near the entrance, making it difficult for the people to come out,” he said.

The flames spread rapidly because of the structure’s flammable material, he added.

Fires are common in India due to poor building practices, overcrowding and a lack of adherence to safety regulations.

Speaking at the site of the amusement park fire, top local government official Prabhav Joshi confirmed to AFP that the number killed had risen on Sunday morning to 27.

“The toll in the fire incident is now 27,” he said. “Police have arrested two persons and the investigation is continuing.”

The local Rajkot government said in a statement that forensic officers were “collecting DNA samples from the remains”, as “the bodies have been charred beyond recognition”.

‘Tried to escape’

Survivors recalled their horror as they struggled to flee the fire.

“We were bowling when two staff members told us there was a fire on the ground floor and we should leave. The area was soon full of smoke,” Pruthvirajsinh Jadeja told The Indian Express newspaper.

“We tried to escape from the rear door, but couldn’t. I saw a beam of light coming from outside. I kicked down the tin sheet and five of us made our way out, jumping from the first floor.”

Jadeja added that at least 70 people, including children, were on the first floor when the fire broke out.

An Instagram page that appears to belong to the facility advertises it as an amusement and theme park, where trampolining, go-karting, bowling and paintball are offered, among other recreational activities.

The owner and manager of the game zone have been arrested, officials said.

Members of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) held a meeting with local administration in Rajkot early Sunday. The team will submit a report within 72 hours.

Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel visited the incident site on Sunday morning and a hospital where the injured persons were admitted.

Gujarat is the home state of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said he was “extremely distressed by the fire” in a post on social media.

The police have launched an inspection of all the game zones in Gujarat and close down those running without fire safety permission.

Court case

A special bench of the Gujarat High Court on Sunday took suo motu cognizance of the fire incident at a game zone in Rajkot and said it was prima facie a “man-made disaster”.

The bench of Justices Biren Vaishnav and Devan Desai directed advocates of the Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot municipal corporations to appear before it on Monday with instructions as to under what provisions of law the authorities led these gaming units to be set up or continue to operate under their jurisdiction.(Agencies)

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