New Delhi, Feb 12 (PTI) Despite possessing the fire department’s no-objection certificate (NOC), the untrained staff at the Arpit hotel in central Delhi could not use the equipment to douse a fire that killed 17 persons on Tuesday, a senior fire officer said.

“There was wooden cladding all over the stairs and the corridors’ wall, which led the fire to spread all over the hotel premises. The fire had started on the first floor and people got stuck on the corridor. The passage was so narrow that when they started running, a stampede occurred,” Chief Fire Officer Atul Garg said.

“All the casualties were reported from the third and fourth floors as the exit got stuck. We pulled the bodies from those two floors,” he added.

The hotel had the fire-fighting equipment, but the untrained staff could not operate them, Garg said.

“There was only one emergency exit which was locked. The windows were automatic and had a push-button system. The staff could not open the windows as they were not aware of this function and the fire-fighters had to break open the glass,” Deputy Fire Officer Sunil Chaudhary said.

At around 7 am, the last body was pulled out of the hotel, he added.

Those who survived the tragedy said the switches in the hotel rooms were not functioning properly and when the fire broke out, they found it difficult to locate the stairs as there was not sufficient light.

There was a restaurant at the basement of the hotel, violating rules, a fire officer said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.