New Delhi/Kochi: They were ready to leave for Haridwar around 3.30 am but suddenly the power went out. A foul smell created fear. Soon, they realised the planned visit to Haridwar was in jeopardy.
Before Somshekhar (57), native of Cheranallur, Kochi and his family could understand what had happened, plumes of thick smoke running through their floor at Arpit Palace Hotel made them suspicious.
Other than Somshekhar, 12 members of his family were staying at the hotel in central Delhi where a massive fire killed 17 people. Somshekhar’s mother Nalini Amma (84), siblings Vidyasagar (59) and Jayasree (53) were among the victims.
The family had come from Ernakulam to attend a wedding in Ghaziabad, which comprises the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Nalini Amma, her children Vidyasagar, Somshekhar, Sudha, Jayasree, Vidyasagar’s wife Madhuri, son Vishnu, Somshekhar’s wife Beena, Sudha’s husband Surendran, Jayasree’s son Gowrishankar, Nalini Amma’s sister’s daughter Saraswathy and her husband Vijayakumar their son Sreekesh were staying at the hotel.
"We have come to attend the wedding of a relative in Ghaziabad. We were planning to go to Haridwar today," he said.
"We were all ready early morning when there was a sudden power cut. They switched on the generator and there was heavy smoke and smell. My sister Jayasree first spotted the smoke and informed us. "The entire pathway was full of smoke and smell," Somshekhar said.
His mother and brother were with his sister that time and Somshekhar had rushed to his room to open the windows to allow the smoke to pass and to find a possible exit route.
"Yesterday, we went to Vrindawan and returned late last night. Today, we had to go to Haridwar. We had also planned to visit Amritsar and leave for Kerala on 15th," he said.
Somshekhar said he has no knowledge what started the fire. But, he stressed, he believes negligence on part of the hotel management must have triggered the tragedy.
Jayasree resides in Chottanikkara. The others live in Cheranallur in nearby houses. On coming to know of the tragedy, friends, relatives and locals thronged the house. The bodies will be brought to their native on Wednesday morning.
All arrangements have been made to bring to Kerala the bodies of three people from the state who perished in the fire that swept through a four-storeyed hotel at Karol Bagh in central Delhi early Tuesday. The bodies will be brought to Kochi by an Air India flight at 5.10 am Wednesday, a press release from the Chief Minister's office (CMO) said.
There were more than 50 guests at the hotel, which had a canopy on the terrace, housing what appeared to be a restaurant, officials said.
At least 35 people were injured in the fire. A senior civic official said a suspected short circuit could have sparked the fire. A video of the incident showed two people jumping from the fourth floor of the building.
Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain, who visited the hotel, told reporters he has directed the fire department to inspect buildings which have five floors or more and submit a report on their fire safety compliance within a week.
Babu Panikar, head of Delhi Malayali Association, said, "I got to know that Malayali's were trapped inside. I rushed to the spot to check on them. It's a group of 13 members belonging to same family who came from Ernakulam to attend a wedding in Ghaziabad.
"Around 10 of them were rescued safely while three bodies have been identified. They are are ready to go to Haridwar this morning at around 6 am. Two of them family members left for Mumbai yesterday," he said.
Emergency exit of hotel locked: Alphons Kannanthanam
Meanwhile, union minister Alphons Kannanthanam (K J Alphons) Tuesday said the emergency exit of the Arpit Palace hotel, where 17 people were killed in a fire that broke out early Tuesday, was "too narrow" and also locked.
The minister, who visited the site of the tragedy in central Delhi's Karol Bagh locality, said he was sure that there would be violation of norms.
The Union tourism minister said there were a lot of wooden structures inside, which may have helped the fire spread.
"When I headed to the emergency exit, I found that it had been locked yesterday (last night). Also, it was too narrow," he told reporters.
"Obviously, even if people came to the emergency exit, they could not have escaped as it was too narrow and it was locked anyway," he said.
Alphons said he spoke to the mayor and asked him to check whether all regulations were in place and to take immediate action if there was any lapse on the part of the hotel management.
(With inputs from PTI)