Indian police on Saturday charged the owners of a private school after a fire killed 20 teenagers, some who died jumping from the building in a desperate bid to escape the flames, officials said.
Sixteen of the dead were young women who had been preparing for exams at a tuition centre illegally set up on the top of a commercial building in the western city of Surat, the officials said.
Horrifying images of the students leaping from upper floors of the building on Friday afternoon have spread on social media.
A youth died in hospital on Saturday, increasing the toll, as a provisional inquiry revealed that the school was housed in a plastic dome that was quickly engulfed in flames.
Most of the victims were aged between 15 and 19, officials said. More than 50 students were in classes when the fire erupted.
Government officials said five of the dead had been due to receive exam results determining their university entrance on Saturday. All five had passed with flying colours, one official told AFP.
Police have charged three owners of the tuition centre at the Takshashila Arcade with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and attempted culpable homicide.
Fire in tutoring center kills 19 students in western India
At least 19 teenage students were killed in a fire that broke out Friday in a tutoring center in the western Indian city of Surat, a top state official said.
More than a dozen students were hospitalized with burns or suffering from suffocation, police officer Praveen Chaudhary said.
The students were attending a class when the fire broke out in the four-story building, Chaudhary said. He said all of the students had been accounted for.
Gujarat state’s top elected official, Vijay Rupani, said 19 youngsters died in the fire.
“I’m told these youngsters were trapped in the building as the fire destroyed the staircase. Around three to four died after they jumped off the building,” Rupani told The Press Trust of India.
Two dozen fire engines battled the blaze, fire officer Deepak Satkale said. Authorities were investigating the cause of the fire.
The fire engulfed the third and fourth floors of the building in a shopping district, The Press Trust of India said.
Television images showed students jumping from the building to escape the blaze, with thick smoke billowing from the building.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was anguished by the fire. “Have asked the Gujarat Government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected,” he tweeted.
Building fires are common in India because of poorly enforced safety regulations.