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

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)


Sudan peace talks stall as rebel group halts talks over attack

Updated 53 min ago

Sudan peace talks stall as rebel group halts talks over attack

JUBA: Sudan peace talks stalled before they began in Juba on Wednesday as a key rebel grouping said it refused to negotiate with Khartoum, claiming government forces were still bombarding its territory.

Juba is hosting talks between the government of new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and representatives from two umbrella groups of rebels that fought forces of now ousted President Omar Bashir in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

The talks were launched on Monday in the presence of heads of state from Ethiopia, Egypt, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.

The first face-to-face meeting between the adversaries was to take place in the South Sudan capital on Wednesday.

But Amar Amoua, secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), told journalists his group would not continue unless the government withdrew from the area of the fighting, in the Nuba Mountains.

“Our coming back to negotiate ... is bound by government decisions to clear all these things,” Amoua, who is representing three different rebel movements, told journalists.

He said that for the past 10 days government forces had continued to attack their territory despite an unofficial cease-fire.

A chief was killed in the Nuba Mountains and several businessmen had gone missing, he charged.

“The government should withdraw its forces and stop ... occupying new areas, we will not allow that,” he said.

Dhieu Mathok, a member of the South Sudan mediation team, told AFP they were investigating the SPLM-N’s complaints.

“We are still investigating it whether there are really attacks in those areas or not, but this will not stop the peace process. Usually in a negotiation these things happen but we are here to resolve the problems.”

Mohammed Hassan, a spokesman for the Sudan delegation, attributed the fighting to an attack by herders on local merchants.

“The government regrets and condemns in the strongest terms these unfortunate events that keep happening in the area and in other parts of the country,” he said.

“We also regret that these events took place at a time when people are entering peace negotiations, and the country and the whole of the region is united for the cause of peace in Sudan.”

The new peace initiative comes after Bashir was toppled by the military in April.

Hamdok has been tasked with leading Sudan back to civilian rule, but he has said he also wants to end Khartoum’s conflicts with the rebels.

The years-long bloodshed has left hundreds of thousands of dead and forced millions to flee their homes.

The movement led by Abdel-Aziz Al-Hilu says it will not resume talks unless the government releases the detainees, withdraws from the area where they were seized, and declares a documented cease-fire. 

The SPLM-N is a rebel group in the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, which had ceased all hostilities as a “goodwill gesture” after the overthrow of President Bashir. Al-Hilu’s movement controls significant chunks of territory in the region.