Fire in Delhi hotel kills 17, raises questions of safety

The fire broke out in a congested area in central Delhi. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 February 2019
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Fire in Delhi hotel kills 17, raises questions of safety

  • The blaze broke out before dawn at Hotel Arpit Palace in a congested part of central Delhi
  • Most of the victims were sleeping when the fire broke out, believed to have been caused by a short circuit

NEW DELHI: The death toll rose to 17 from a fire that tore through a hotel in New Delhi on Tuesday, a senior official said.
The fire broke out before dawn at the budget Hotel Arpit Palace in a congested part of central Delhi.
“We have confirmed with hospital authorities, the toll is now 17 including a child,” Sunil Choudhary, a fire brigade official, told AFP.

The incident raised fresh questions about safety standards in poorly regulated hotels catering to the less affluent.
A wedding party had booked a large part of the 35-room hotel. Among the dead were a woman and a child who tried to escape by jumping from a window, the Indian Express said. Television showed pictures of broken windows.
Virendra Singh, deputy fire chief, said 35 people had been rescued from the hotel located in the shopping district of Karol Bagh. Most of the victims were sleeping when the fire broke out, believed to have been caused by a short circuit.
Authorities in Delhi have frequently launched raids to enforce building codes, fire safety measures and evacuation procedures but these steps have failed to check rampant violations by builders in a rapidly expanding capital city of more than 18 million people.
Last week, a fire broke out in a hospital in a Delhi suburb, forcing emergency evacuation of patients. Nobody was hurt.

(With Reuters, AFP)


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.