New Delhi, February 12
At 3.30 am, Somshekhar and his family were preparing to leave their hotel for Haridwar. But suddenly the power went out and their rooms plunged into darkness. Before they could understand what had happened, plumes of thick smoke ran through their floor at Arpit Palace Hotel. A foul smell created fear.
Soon, they realised their lives could be in danger.
Other than Somshekhar, 12 people were in the group staying at the hotel in central Delhi where a massive fire killed 17 people, including a child.
He said his sister (53), mother (84) and brother (59) died in the early-morning fire.
The family had come from Ernakulam district in Kerala to attend a wedding in Ghaziabad, which comprises the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
"We have come to attend the wedding of a relative in Ghaziabad. We were planning to go to Haridwar today," the 57-year-old said.
"We were all ready early morning when there was a sudden power cut. They switched on the generator and there was heavy smoke and smell. My sister first spotted the smoke and informed us.
"The entire pathway was full of smoke and smell," Somshekhar said.
His mother and brother were with his sister that time and Somshekhar had rushed to his room to open the windows to allow the smoke to pass and to find a possible exit route.
"Yesterday, we went to Vrindawan and returned late last night. Today, we had to go to Haridwar. We had also planned to visit Amritsar and leave for Kerala on the 15th," he said.
Somshekhar said he has no knowledge what started the fire. But, he stressed, he believes negligence on part of the hotel management must have triggered the tragedy.
There were more than 50 guests at the hotel, which had a canopy on the terrace, housing what appeared to be a restaurant, officials said.
At least 35 people were injured in the fire.
A senior civic official said a suspected short circuit could have sparked the fire.
A video of the incident showed two people jumping from the fourth floor of the building.
A senior civic official said short-circuit is suspected to be the cause of the fire.
Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain, who visited the hotel, told reporters he has directed the fire department to inspect buildings which have five floors or more and submit a report on their fire safety compliance within a week.
Babu Panikar, head of Delhi Malayali Association, said, "I got to know that Malayali's were trapped inside. I rushed to the spot to check on them. It's a group of 13 members belonging to same family who came from Ernakulam to attend a wedding in Ghaziabad.
"Around 10 of them were rescued safely while three bodies have been identified. They are are ready to go to Haridwar this morning at around 6 am. Two of them family members left for Mumbai yesterday," he said. - PTI