Two persons have been arrested in connection with the massive Surat fire incident that took place on May 26, Sunday. Accused Harshul Vekharia and Jignesh Paghdal who are the builders and were on the run are finally taken into custody. The arrests come just a day after the owner of the coaching class Bhargav Butani was held. In all, three people have been arrested and two fire officers named S K Acharya and Kirti Mod have been suspended for the negligence in the case.
Fire broke out in an art and craft coaching centre located in a four storeyed building named Takshashila Arcade in Surat’s Sarthana area on May 24, Friday. About 22 people died in this mishap including 18 girls of the art and craft institute. According to the reports, the fire was the result of a short circuit. Several video clips surfaced online to expose the wildness of the fire that brought tragic deaths of many. The videos showed the helpless students who jumped off the building floors to abstain from getting burnt in the fire.
Reports also state that a majority of people stuck in the fire died due to suffocation or by jumping off the building because all the exits were blocked as the fire intensified.
“Vekharia is the builder while Paghdal used to handle the overall management of Takshashila Arcade. Both were arrested today. We have also got two-day remand of Butani,” Surat Police Commissioner, Satish Sharma, said. Moreover, after this incident, the Gujarat government has conducted preliminary inspections and issued showcause notice to several buildings all over the state.
“In Surat, 1,123 coaching centres have been served showcause notice and they have been given three days for complying with fire safety standards. We are working on overhauling of fire safety infrastructure and making it better all over Gujarat,” said Gujarat Chief Secretary Dr. JN Singh.
The Gujarat government has also issued showcause notice to 9,395 buildings all over the state in the past two days. Those who have been issued showcause notice need to reply within three days, the chief secretary said.
However, Dr. Singh has also mentioned that the preliminary probe revealed that the use of highly inflammable materials, including flex and tyres – used as chairs in the coaching class and the fire tenders stationed away from the spot, were the factors which caused the fire to spread rapidly.
“The fire spread very quickly because highly inflammable materials, such as flex, were used… The ceiling (of the coaching institute) was just five feet high. Since one cannot sit on a chair in such a room, the owner used tyres instead of chairs for the students,” told the Chief Secretary.
“High- capacity fire tenders took time to reach the spot as they were stationed at a considerable distance, around 45 minutes away. It hampered the fire fighting operation to some extent,” he added.
Meanwhile, IndiaToday has reported that there was a student who was present when the fire broke out. He said, “there was smoke, I did not know what to do. I took the ladder, first helped the children get out of the place, managed to rescue 2 more students. The fire brigade came after 40-45 minutes.”
Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani has, however, ordered an investigation and announced a compensation of Rs. 4 lakh each to the families of those killed.