NEW DELHI – Rescuers on Saturday searched for victims in the ruins of a commercial building in New Delhi that had been destroyed by fire the night before, killing at least 27 people. Officials warned the toll could rise.
The fire started just before 5 p.m. Friday in the four-story building, which was home to a number of production companies that made closed-circuit television cameras. Most of the dead were assembly line workers, officials said.
Videos shot at the scene – in the Mundka neighborhood of western New Delhi, the Indian capital – saw smoke billowing from the windows of the building as crowds watched as firefighters rescued people trapped inside.
Atul Garg, the New Delhi fire chief, said firefighters initially struggled to reach the building because the area is heavily congested. About 130 firefighters were sent to the scene and the fire was extinguished about five hours after it started, he said.
“Because the temperature is close to 45 degrees Celsius” – about 113 Fahrenheit – “more fire incidents are happening,” said Mr. Garg, referring to the current heat wave in India. “Nowadays we get almost 160 fire alarms a day.”
When the fire broke out, the building was packed with workers and other staff. About 50 people were rescued from the building, several of whom were seriously injured.
Hundreds of people are killed by fires in India every year, many of them impoverished workers. Investigators often trace the cause to faulty wiring or lax enforcement of building codes. Activists say officials often fail to take security measures or punish those who break rules.
Last year, a fire in the pediatric ward of a hospital in central Bhopal killed at least four newborns. At least 18 people were killed in 2019 after a fire broke out at a commercial building in the western state of Gujarat.
The cause of Friday’s fire in New Delhi was not immediately clear. Detectives said Saturday they were looking for the owner of the building and they suspected security measures had been violated. Parts of the building had yet to be searched and officials feared more bodies would be found.
Sameer Yasir reporting contributed.