New Delhi:  The death toll in fire that broke out at a makeshift COVID-19 facility in Andhra Pradesh’s Vijaywada rose to 10, news agency ANI reported. According to initial information, suffocation due to smoke emanating from the fire is said to have caused most casualties. Also Read - Maggots Found in Bedsores of Man Post Discharge from Kerala Hospital; Minister Orders Probe

The mishap took place at around 5 AM on Sunday morning at Hotel Swarna Palace that was being used as the Covid Care Centre by Ramesh Hospital. Also Read - Odisha Deputy Speaker Rajanikant Singh, 11 other MLAs Test Positive For COVID-19

“The hotel was taken on lease and run by Ramesh Hospitals, a pvt hospital where COVID-19 patients were being treated. 40 patients & 10 medical staff were at the hotel at the time of incident. Officials were directed to launch immediate rescue measures”, said Andhra Pradesh Home Minister. Also Read - Feeling Better Now, Will be Out of Hospital Soon: Manish Sisodia

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Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy expressed shock and grief over the fire mishap and enquired about the cause of the accident. He directed the concerned officials to take up the rescue measures and admit the injured in nearby hospitals. The Chief Minister also instructed officials to conduct an inquiry into the accident.

Besides, the Andhra Pradesh government also announced Rs 50 lakhs ex-gratia each to the families of those who lost their lives.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy over the phone and enquired about the incident.

Anguished by the fire at a COVID Centre in Vijayawada. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. I pray that the injured recover as soon as possible. Discussed the prevailing situation with AP CM Jagan Mohan Reddy ji & assured all possible support, tweeted PM Modi.

Deeply anguished by news of tragic fire accident at a COVID19 facility in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. Centre assures all possible support to state govt. Condolences with affected families in this time of grief. Praying for speedy recovery of those injured, said Home Minister Amit Shah.

Fire Safety Director Jairam Naik asserted that the hotel leased by a private hospital to treat coronavirus patients had “violated” safety rules.  “The fire alarm did not go off at the time of the accident and there was a delay in opening the rear door. Investigation has been initiated and there will be action against the hotel management,” he added.

An electrical short circuit appeared to be the possible cause of the fire mishap, said state Home Minister.

Sources in the AP Disaster Response and Fire Services Department told PTI that the fire apparently broke out due to an electrical short circuit in the hotel’s front lobby and spread to the first and second floors.

There was only one main stairway at the hotel. “They should have actually used a different stairway on the rear side and that would have saved their lives. Unfortunately, they used the main one in a panicky situation and got caught in the fire,” a Fire official said.

Taking cognizance of the incident, Minister of State for Home affairs G Kishan Reddy said that teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have also been deployed for the rescue operations.

“Shocked and distressed by the news of fire at a Covid centre in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. NDRF teams have joined the local authorities in relief operations. Prayers for the families of the bereaved and safety of others,” he said.