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20 students killed as fire rips through Indian tutoring centre

SURAT, India:  At least 20 students including, 16 girls, died after a fire broke out at a tuition centre situated in a four-storey commercial building.

Television footages broadcast on Friday showed people jumping off the top floor of the building or trying to escape by climbing down, as thick smoke billowed out.

Most of the victims were teenagers who had been studying at a tuition centre. Authorities confirmed that the fire broke out due to a short-circuit on the ground floor. Officials said the fire spread through packed classrooms because of flammable roofing.

At least 20 others suffered serious injuries and were being treated in Gujarat hospitals. A local fire official said the students lost their lives both because of the fire and jumping out of the building in panic.

All of the dead were aged below 20 years and many were trapped because the fire began near the staircase.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi offered their condolences on Twitter and called for local authorities to provide assistance.

Within the span of seven months, this is the second major fire incident at a coaching centre in Surat city. Three students and a teacher were killed in a blaze on November 26, 2018.

The Takshashila Arcade, the building where the fire broke out, had permission for just one floor but two additional storeys were constructed illegally.

There are around 3,000 private coaching and tuition centres in the city but most of them lack fire safety arrangements.

The authorities confirmed that the government has shut down all private tutoring centres that lacked fire safety measures.

In 2004, at least 94 schoolchildren were killed when a fire broke out at a school in Thanjavur city of Tamil Nadu state.

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