Half an hour before 13 members of an extended family hailing from Kerala could check out of the Karol Bagh’s Arpit Palace hotel, the fatal fire cut short their “tour of a lifetime”. On Wednesday,only 10 members of the family will return to their homes in Kochi and Ernakulam in Kerala.
The remaining three were among 17 people who were killed in a major fire at the Hotel Arpit Palace on Tuesday morning.
Fire department officials said the fire started in a room on the first floor due to a suspected short circuit and spread through the building.
Sixteen members of this family from Kerala had arrived in Ghaziabad last Thursday to attend a relative’s wedding the next day. But the trip was not just about the wedding. Three members had returned home after the wedding, but the rest of them had plans to tour Delhi and parts of north India before returning home on February 15.
“We had returned from Mathura on Monday and my elderly mother was tired and had spent the entire day sleeping,” said PC Som Shekharan who lost his mother Nailini Amma, 84, a sister Jayshree, 53, and a brother Vidyasagar, 59 to the horrific blaze.
The family had booked four rooms in the hotel as part of a package through a tour operator. The hotel was to only serve as their night stay.
They were to leave for Haridwar early Tuesday morning, and from there they had planned to go Amritsar.
Surender Kumar, a retired businessman and one of the members of the family, said power failure occurred soon after he woke up at 4am. “Within minutes, I heard people screaming,” said Kumar.
Shekharan too heard his sister screaming and opened the door of his room, but was forced to shut it immediately. “There was very dense smoke outside. I wanted to rush and save my mother and sister who were screaming, but it just wasn’t possible,” said Shekharan, an assistant manager with LIC.
Firefighters rescued Shekharan and nine others of his family by smashing the windows of the hotel.
Uma Nair, the bride’s mother, said her daughter and her son-inlaw haven’t been informed about the tragedy.
“They broke caste barriers to marry each other and are currently in the Maldives. We do not know how to break the news to them,” said Nair.
Eight tourists from Myanmar who were on a pilgrimage were also staying at the hotel. They had visited Nepal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and had checked into the Karol Bagh hotel on Monday.
“They were so excited about the pilgrimage that they had brought along a professional photographer for the trip. The photographer and two women were killed in the fire while another member of the group jumped from the window to save herself. She has hurt her spine,” said Gyandeep, a tour operator, who was assisting the group in India.
A chef from the hotel, 30-year-old Tara Chand, had also jumped from the roof but could not survive. Hailing from Uttarakhand, Chand is survived by a wife and four children, the youngest of who is 18 months old.
“There were at least 10 staffers sleeping on the terrace. I am angry that they all escaped without caring to wake up my brother,” said Chand’s brother, Khilaaf, who also works in a Delhi hotel.