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Four children among 27 dead in India amusement park fire

By AFP

May 26, 2024 12:16 PM


Fire erupts in amusement park in India

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Four young children were among 27 people killed when a fire in India ripped through a crowded amusement park, a top local official said Sunday, as rescuers scoured the site the morning after the blaze.

Survivors reported having to kick down doors and leap out of windows to escape the inferno that swept through a centre packed full of young people enjoying games including bowling, Indian media reported on Sunday.

Lines of bodies draped in white cloths were laid out before being taken away from the centre in Rajkot, a city in the western state of Gujarat.

The four children reported dead were all aged under 12, said police, who warned that many of the corpses were so badly burned it was difficult to identify them.

Outside the still-smouldering wreckage, the mother and sister of 20-year-old Asha Kathad -- who had worked in the centre -- waited for news.

They held up a photograph of Asha on a mobile phone.

"We don't have any information about her,"  Asha's mother told local reporters, too distraught to give her full name as she wept.

 

- 'Trapped' -

 

More than 300 people were enjoying the summer holiday weekend in the two-storey structure at the TRP amusement and theme park when the blaze broke out on Saturday evening, Rajkot fire officer Ilesh Kher told reporters on the night of the fire.

"People got trapped as a temporary structure at the facility collapsed near the entrance, making it difficult for the people to come out," he said.

The flames spread rapidly because of the structure's flammable material, he added.

Fires are common in India due to poor building practices, overcrowding and a lack of adherence to safety regulations.

Also on Saturday night, a fire in India's capital ripped through a newborn baby hospital, killing six infants, with passersby charging into the burning building to pull out the other newborns from the ward.

Speaking at the site of the amusement park fire, top local government official Prabhav Joshi confirmed to AFP that the number killed had risen on Sunday morning to 27.

"The toll in the fire incident is now 27," he said. "Police have arrested two persons and the investigation is continuing."

The local Rajkot government said in a statement that forensic officers were "collecting DNA samples from the remains", as "the bodies have been charred beyond recognition".

 

- 'Tried to escape' -

 

Survivors recalled their horror as they struggled to flee the fire.

"We were bowling when two staff members told us there was a fire on the ground floor and we should leave. The area was soon full of smoke," Pruthvirajsinh Jadeja told The Indian Express newspaper.

"We tried to escape from the rear door, but couldn't. I saw a beam of light coming from outside. I kicked down the tin sheet and five of us made our way out, jumping from the first floor."

Jadeja added that at least 70 people, including children, were on the first floor when the fire broke out.

An Instagram page that appears to belong to the facility advertises it as an amusement and theme park, where trampolining, go-karting, bowling and paintball are offered, among other recreational activities.

Gujarat is the home state of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said he was "extremely distressed by the fire" in a post on social media.


AFP


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