A day after 20 students were killed in a massive fire at a coaching centre running inside a commercial building in Surat, the owner of the coaching centre has been arrested as it was found that there were gross structural irregularities and wilful negligence of fire safety norms, police said.
An FIR has also been registered against the builders of the complex, Takshahila Aracade, Harshal Vekaria and Jignesh, for culpapble homicide not amounting to murder.
On Friday evening, a massive fire had broken out in the dome-like structure on the fourth floor of the complex, in which at least 20 teenage students who were attending coaching classes were killed. Disturbing visuals showing some students jumping from the third and fourth floors of the building amid plumes of thick smoke had gone viral on social media.
Initial investigation has revealed that the building had just a single point of entry and exit and the upper floors, from where the coaching centre operated, was only accessible through a wooden staircase. The staircase was engulfed in fire, leaving no way for the students to escape. The students started jumping off the building but many remained trapped inside.
The fire is suspected to have started either from an air conditioner compressor or some electrical equipment in a classroom, but officials have not yet confirmed a reason.
The huge dome erected on the building’s terrace, clearly visible on Varachha Road, was reportedly also built illegally, but civic officials had turned a blind eye to it.
It was in 2001 that the Surat Urban Development Authority (SUDA) approved the plan for a residential society at the site. However, a shopping centre was illegally constructed in 2007, the Times of India reported.
In 2012, when building regularisation rules were framed, this structure was legalised by paying the impact fees in 2013 and the second floor was legalised. The third floor was built illegally, DC Gandhi, zonal chief of Varachha, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
The citizens were angry as local civic body were caught napping even after major fire incidents were reported in recent past in which students were killed in a similar fashion.
On November 26, 2018, three students and a teacher were killed in a fire which had engulfed Aagam Arcade in Vesu area in Surat.
According to an estimate, over 3 lakh students attend nearly 3,000 coaching centres located in the shopping complexes, some of them extremely rickety and dangerous.