Fire in commercial centre in India kills at least 15

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) – At least 15 people were killed when a fire broke out in a four-storey commercial building in the city of Surat in India’s western state of Gujarat on Friday, a state government spokesman said.

Television footage broadcast by private channel NDTV showed people jumping off the top floor of the Takshashila building or trying to escape by climbing down, as thick smoke billowed out.

Most of the dead were students who had been attending class at a tuition centre housed in the building, according to the spokesman for the office of Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.

A witness told Reuters that the students were school-aged children.

“The rescue operation has ended and 15 people have died,” the spokesman said.

Television footage showed people trying to grab a large banner on the side of the building as they plummeted down.

Rupani has ordered an inquiry into the incident and asked Mukesh Puri, principal secretary of the urban development department, to submit a report within three days, the spokesman for his office said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter he was thinking of the bereaved families.

“Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy in Surat,” Modi said.

“May the injured recover quickly,” he said, adding he had instructed authorities to help those affected.