Amusement park disaster

Great tragedy: A firefighter walking next to burnt debris the day after the fire broke out at the amusement park in Rajkot city, Gujarat state. — AP

FOUR young children were among 27 people killed when a fire in India ripped through a crowded amusement park, a top local official said, as rescuers 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.

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.

Outside the still smouldering wreckage, the mother and sister of 20-year-old Asha Kathad – who had worked in the centre – waited for news.

“We don’t have any information about her,” Asha’s mother told local reporters, too distraught to give her full name as she wept.

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.

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

Speaking at the site of the amusement park fire, top local government official Prabhav Joshi said the number killed had risen to 27 as of yesterday morning.

“Police have arrested two persons and the investigation is continuing,” he said.

The local Rajkot government said in a statement that forensic officers were “collecting DNA samples from the remains”, as “the bodies have been charred beyond recognition”.

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.

“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 facility advertises it as an amusement and theme park, where trampolining, go-karting, bowling and paintball are offered, among other recreational activities.

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. — AFP

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