Firefighters rescue people during an early morning fire at the Arpit Palace Hotel in the Karol Bagh neighbourhood of New Delhi, India, yesterday. Seventeen people were killed. AP African News Agency (ANA)
NEW DELHI - A fire swept through a hotel in New Delhi yesterday, killing 17 people, authorities in the Indian capital said, raising fresh questions about safety standards in poorly- regulated budget hotels.

Frequent raids by civic authorities to enforce building codes, fire safety measures and evacuation procedures have failed to curb violations in a rapidly expanding city of more than 18 million.

“Seventeen people died because of suffocation, not fire,” said deputy fire chief Virendra Singh, adding that 35 people had been rescued.

Most of the victims were sleeping when the fire broke out, believed to have been caused by a short circuit.

The dead included a woman and a child who had tried to escape by jumping from a fifth-floor window of the 65-room hotel in the shopping district of Karol Bagh, some of which had been booked by a wedding party.

Television showed pictures of flames leaping from the top floor.

Those staying in the hotel included a group of tourists from Myanmar, broadcaster NDTV said, adding that authorities were trying to ascertain their whereabouts.

Authorities appeared to have been negligent in enforcing building laws in the area, Delhi urban development minister Satyendar Jain said.

“There is a clear case of negligence here,” he added. 

- Reuters African News Agency (ANA)