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Police say 17 killed in fire at New Delhi hotel, 4 others hurt

A fire engulfed a shoddily built budget hotel in central New Delhi early Tuesday, killing 17 people and injuring at least four others, Indian authorities said.

'In 15 minutes, the whole room was black,' hotel guest says

A woman cries as she cannot find her relative who was staying in a hotel where a fire broke out in New Delhi. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

A fire engulfed a shoddily built budget hotel in central New Delhi early Tuesday, killing 17 people and injuring at least four others, Indian authorities said.

Most of the deaths at the Arpit Palace Hotel were due to suffocation, said Satyendar Kumar Jain, the Delhi government cabinet minister of health and urban development.

A hotel guest said rescue efforts were delayed because fire engine ladders couldn't reach his floor.

The five-storey hotel had a makeshift sixth floor built on top of the roof out of fibreglass, Jain said.

"Carelessness on the part of authorities is evident. We are going to investigate, and the wrongdoer will be punished," he told reporters at the scene.

The Arpit Palace in Karol Bagh, an area in India's capital city full of shops and budget hotels that is popular with tourists, had 43 guest rooms, according to its website.

Rescuers had to use the windows to reach people because the corridors, made of wooden panels that worsened the fire, were blocked, Vipin Kental, Chief Fire Officer, told NDTV.

A fire brigade is seen outside the hotel where the deadly fire broke out. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

The fire was extinguished, first responders had cleared all the rooms and the hotel was sealed by midday Tuesday. Authorities were still investigating what sparked the blaze, Deputy Police Commissioner Mandeep Singh Randhawa said.

Twenty-five fire engines responded to the fire, which had engulfed all but the ground floor of the hotel, fire officer Vijay Paul said.

About three dozen people were rescued from the hotel, Paul said.

'Help, help!'

Among those rescued was Sivanand Chand, 43, a hotel guest who was jolted awake around 4 a.m., struggling to breathe.

"When I got out of my room, I could hear 'help, help!' from adjoining rooms," Chand said, adding that he opened the window and saw flames rising very fast.

"In 15 minutes, the whole room was black," he said.

The rescue took about 30 minutes because fire engine ladders could not initially reach Chand's floor, he said.

The injured were taken to hospitals, but their medical conditions were not immediately known.