Television footage broadcast by private channel NDTV showed people jumping off the top floor of the Takshashila building or trying to escape by climbing down, as thick smoke billowed out.
18 Students Dead In Surat Coaching Centre Fire, Many Jumped Off Building
— NDTV Videos (@ndtvvideos) May 24, 2019
The Press Trust of India news agency said the fire engulfed the third and fourth floors of the building in a shopping district.
Most of the dead were students who had been attending class at a tuition center housed in the building, according to the spokesman for the office of Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
“The fire started near the staircase, so they could not get down,” Joint Commissioner of Police Harikrishna Patel said, adding that all of the dead were aged below 20 years.
Fire officer Deepak Satkale said 24 fire engines battled the blaze. The blaze, likely caused due to an electrical short circuit, started between 3.45-4.00 pm local time and spread rapidly, Patel said.
Television footage showed people trying to grab a large banner on the side of the building as they plummeted down.
*Warning: Some readers may find this video disturbing*
— NEWS HUB INDIA (@NEWSHUBINDIA1) May 24, 2019
Rupani has ordered an inquiry into the incident and asked Mukesh Puri, principal secretary of the urban development department, to submit a report within three days, the spokesman for his office said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter he was thinking of the bereaved families.
“Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy in Surat,” Modi said. “May the injured recover quickly,” he said, adding he had instructed authorities to help those affected.
Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy in Surat. My thoughts are with bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. Have asked the Gujarat Government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 24, 2019
Building fires are common in India because of poorly enforced safety regulations.