At least ten are dead and several others feared trapped after a fire broke out at a private hotel that was being used as a makeshift COVID-19 facility in Andhra Pradesh's Vijayawada district on Sunday morning.
This incident comes just days after eight patients being treated at a designated COVID-19 hospital in Ahmedabad died in a blaze.
Rescue operations are on at the Hotel Swarna Palace, where a short circuit in an air-conditioner on the ground floor was the likely reason behind the fire, police officials told Indian Express.
After receiving a call at 5.15 am, fire tenders were rushed to the spot. The National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) too joined rescue operations, as per the newspaper.
Even as flames spread to the third and fifth floors, which were housing the patients, at least seven people were seen jumping from the terrace to escape the fire. Two others died from asphyxiation.
About 20 patients were shifted to various hospitals from the facility, which housed 30 patients and 10 hospital staff, Vijayawada Police Commissioner B Srinivasulu told PTI.
The hotel leased by a private hospital to treat the coronavirus infected had "violated" safety rules, according to fire safety director Jairam Naik.
He said the hotel had "violated" fire safety rules.
"The fire alarm did not go off at the time of the accident and there was delay in opening the rear door. Investigation has been initiated and there will be action against the hotel management," he added.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, expressing shock over the incident, ordered an enquiry. He also announced ex-gratia of Rs 50 lakh for the kin of the deceased and directed authorities to ensure patients receive proper medical treatment.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent out a tweet offering condolences and support:
Union Home Minister Amit Shah also took to Twitter to express "deep anguished".
Later in the day, the prime minister's office announced that an ex-gratia amount of Rs 2 lakh each from PM National Relief Fund would be given to the next of kin of those who have lost their lives. Also, Rs 50,000 would be given to those who were injured due to the fire.
With inputs from agencies