Firefighters work to douse flames on a building in Surat, in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Picture: Sarju Parekh/AP

New Delhi - The death toll following a fire at an exam tutoring centre in western India rose to 20 students on Saturday, with police saying the owner of the centre had been arrested.

The blaze occurred on Friday at the centre, located in a four-storey commercial complex housing other organizations in the town of Surat in Gujarat state.

Most of the students, aged 15 to 21, died of smoke inhalation. Some died from injuries sustained after they jumped off the fourth floor of the building, local police official MM Puwar said.

Two of the injured students were in critical condition and on life support, while five others were being treated for serious injuries, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported, citing hospital officials.

"Preliminary investigations indicate a short circuit in the electrical wiring sparked the fire," Puwar said.

"Thermocol and other combustible materials were used to create partitions and the ceiling elevation and this led to the fire spreading very rapidly."

The building lacked fire exits and other mandatory fire safetey precautions. "The fire started near the staircase so they could not use it," Puwar said.

The owner of the tuition centre has been arrested. He and two others, including the owner of the building, have been charged with culpable homicide, Puwar said.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has ordered an investigation into the accident and financial aid of 400,000 rupees (about 5765 dollars) be given to each victim's family.

dpa