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‘Illegally-run’ showroom, flouting safety norms — what led to Secunderabad fire that killed 8

The fire emanated from the e-bike showroom and quickly leapt up to its upper floors where a hotel is located. According to police, the showroom was being run illegally.

Eight people were killed and 10 injured after a fire broke out at an ‘illegally-run’ electric scooter showroom in Secunderabad Monday night. The blaze emanated from the showroom — named Gemopai Electric Scooters — situated in the building’s cellar and quickly leapt up to its upper floors where a hotel called Ruby Luxury Hotel is located.

According to police, the electric scooter showroom was being run illegally. The incident took place around 9.35 pm Monday.

A case has been registered against the owners — Rajender Singh Bugga, Sumeet Singh and brothers — under IPC section 304 (causing death by negligence), 337 (whoever causes hurt to any person by doing any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life, or the personal safety of others, shall be punished with imprisonment) and others. All accused are absconding.

“There were about 38 scooters in the showroom and we’re still unsure if they were on charge. We also recovered burnt gas cylinders from the hotel. There could have been some leakage there. The fire started from the cellar of the building and spread to other floors of the hotel,” Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Mahankali Division, B. Ramesh told ThePrint.

The reason for the fire is being ascertained but a preliminary investigative note, accessed by ThePrint, shows that the police suspect an explosion from either an e-bike or a generator placed in the showroom that may have caused the fire.

“Two hotel guests, some hotel staff and four others escaped from the building’s fifth floor terrace to the adjacent Yatri Hotel. The fire broke out following an explosion in the electric bike showroom,” the note read. Police sources told ThePrint that a significant number of deaths could be due to asphyxiation.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office Tuesday announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh to families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the injured. The Telangana government also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 3 lakh to the victims’ families.

Fire safety norms violated

The hotel had 28 rooms and 25 people were staying at the time the fire broke out. The victims hailed from Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada, Chennai, Delhi and Cuttack.

“The staircase of the hotel is connected from the ground floor to the top floor. The smoke spread throughout the building. On the first and second floor, people seemed to be sleeping and when they came to the corridor, it would have been full of smoke, leading to breathlessness and suffocation,” Hyderabad Police Commissioner CV Anand told the media.

The Ruby Hotel is located at one of the busiest areas in Secunderabad. The building is packed between other structures on the main road. When ThePrint visited the area, around five burnt gas cylinders were kept outside the building and all that was left in the cellar were charred remains of the electric scooters.

Sources from the Telangana State Disaster Response and Fire Services told ThePrint that the building, with a height of 17.5 meters, should have had multiple exits. But it has only one, indicating that the builders had violated fire safety norms.

Around 50 fire department personnel were involved in the rescue operation, along with a few local people, the police said.

‘When I first saw smoke emanating from the building, I thought it was a minor fire and fire services must be there. But then, we heard screams from the window. Someone saying ‘bachao’ (help) and we saw a family of four screaming from a window. We broke the windows, gathered ladders and pulled people from the first floor down,” Surya Kiran, a local resident who helped in rescue operations, told media.

Kiran added, “We then went to the third floor and it was full of thick black smoke. We broke open the doors to find three people unconscious. We tried dragging them, but they were heavy and by then we were getting affected too. But we managed to rescue them with the help of police.”

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