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4 children among 27 dead in India amusement park fire

AFP . Mumbai
26 May 2024 11:19:30 | Update: 26 May 2024 14:12:06
4 children among 27 dead in India amusement park fire
— Courtesy/AFP

Four young children were among 27 people killed when a fire in India ripped through a crowded amusement park, police said, as rescuers on Sunday scoured the site the morning after the blaze.

Survivors reported having to kick down doors and leap out of windows to escape the inferno that swept through a centre packed full of young people enjoying games including bowling, Indian media reported on Sunday.

Lines of bodies draped in white cloths were laid out before being taken away from the centre in Rajkot, a city in the western state of Gujarat.

The four children reported dead were all aged under 12, said police, who warned that many of the corpses were so badly burned it was difficult to identify them.

More than 300 people were enjoying the summer holiday weekend in the two-storey structure at the TRP amusement and theme park when the blaze broke out on Saturday evening, Rajkot fire officer Ilesh Kher told reporters on the night of the fire.

"People got trapped as a temporary structure at the facility collapsed near the entrance, making it difficult for the people to come out," he said.

The flames spread rapidly because of the structure's flammable material, he added.

'Tried to escape'

"We have confirmed the death of 27 persons in the fire," senior police officer Radhika Bharai told reporters overnight, updating an earlier toll of 24.

"The bodies are charred beyond recognition and hence their identification is difficult." 

Other officers warned the toll may rise further.

Survivors recalled their horror as they struggled to flee the fire.

"We were bowling when two staff members told us there was a fire on the ground floor and we should leave. The area was soon full of smoke," Pruthvirajsinh Jadeja told The Indian Express newspaper.

"We tried to escape from the rear door, but couldn't. I saw a beam of light coming from outside. I kicked down the tin sheet and five of us made our way out, jumping from the first floor."

Jadeja added that at least 70 people, including children, were on the first floor when the fire broke out.

An Instagram page that appears to belong to the entertainment facility advertises it as an amusement and theme park, where trampolining, go-karting, bowling and paintball are offered, among other recreational activities.

Officials said at least four people have been detained for questioning.

Gujarat is the home state of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said he was "extremely distressed by the fire", in a post on social media.

Fires are common in India due to poor building practices, overcrowding and a lack of adherence to safety regulations.