Tribune News Service
SURAT, May 24
In a tragic incident, at least 19 students of a private coaching class were killed — several of them literally jumping to their death — in a devastating fire in a four-storeyed commercial complex in Sarthana locality of Surat this evening.
Official sources said the toll could increase as several of the children were still in critical condition.
The fire, which was believed to have started at an art studio on the second floor of Takshashila Arcade, soon engulfed the entire building, trapping the students attending coaching classes on the third and fourth floors.
Sources said many of the students were charred to death while some of the 20-odd students who jumped off the fourth floor to escape suffocation died from the fall.
The cause of the fire was said to be short-circuit but it spread quickly because its ceiling was said to be covered with inflammable material. Even the coaching class was functioning under a makeshift dome on the top floor. The building had no fire safety devices, with a single entrance and exit route.
There was only a wooden staircase to reach the tuition classes from the second floor, which led to the fire spreading faster. Eyewitnesses claimed that the casualty figure rose because of the delay in arrival of the fire brigade personnel and when they arrived, they neither had a snorkel or a high ladder to help children climb down.
There was also no assistance of air bags on which the children could have jumped and saved themselves. Instead, several of them died due to falling on the concrete.
CM Vijay Rupani, who rushed to Surat, ordered an inquiry and announced an compensation of Rs 4 lakh for the family members of each student killed. TV channels showed horrific scenes as students tried to save themselves by jumping out of windows.
Meanwhile, the authorities in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot and other cities have ordered the closure of coaching classes till the fire authorities inspect the centres.
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