Children among 36 killed in Rajkot gaming zone blaze, death toll likely to go up

The exact cause of the massive fire is not known. The Gujarat government has formed a SIT to prove the tragic incident.


Published May 26, 2024 | 1:17 AMUpdatedMay 26, 2024 | 1:54 PM

Rajkot Collector Prabhav Joshi said the Fire Control Room received a call at around 4:30 pm regarding the blaze at the game zone. (Screengrab)

At least 36 persons, including nine children under the age of 16, were killed in a massive fire that swept through a game zone teeming with people enjoying a summer vacation outing in Gujarat’s Rajkot city on Saturday, 25 May, evening, officials said.

The death toll is likely to go up, they said.

Police have detained the owner of the TRP Game Zone and the manager while the state government assigned the probe to a Special Investigation Team.

Relief and Rescue operations have been underway at the affected game zone for more than six hours after the blaze erupted at a structure built using metal and fibre sheets for gaming activities at around 4:30 pm, officials said, adding that the structure collapsed due to the huge fire.

“So far we have confirmed the death of 27 persons in the fire incident. The bodies are charred beyond recognition and hence their identification is difficult,” said Assistant Commissioner of Police Radhika Bharai on Saturday.

ACP Vinayak Patel said the deceased included at least four children under the age of 12.

Relief operations still on

The death toll is likely to increase as relief operations are going on, district officials said. According to eyewitnesses, several people, including children were playing games at the game zone, located on Nana-Mava Road, when the tragedy struck.

Police said that the owner and manager of the game zone were detained and taken to the police station for questioning. The government has handed over the investigation of the incident to a five-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Additional Director General of Police Subhash Trivedi.

Rajkot Collector Prabhav Joshi said the Fire Control Room received a call at around 4:30 pm regarding the blaze at the game zone.

“Fire tenders and ambulances rushed to the spot to douse the flames. The fire caused the collapse of the structure, and debris is being cleared,” Joshi added.

However, the exact cause of the massive fire is not known.

President, Prime Minister express grief

President Droupadi Murmu, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the incident.

Modi spoke to Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel to enquire about the rescue and relief efforts.

“The fire tragedy in Rajkot has saddened us all. In my telephone conversation with him a short while ago, Gujarat CM Bhupendrabhai Patel Ji told me about the efforts underway to ensure all possible assistance is provided to those who have been affected,” he said on X.

In a post on X, Murmu said, “I am deeply anguished to learn of the loss of lives in a fire accident at a gaming zone in Rajkot, Gujarat. My heart goes out to the families who have lost their near and dear ones including young children. I pray to the Almighty for the speedy recovery of those being rescued.”

SIT holds meeting with local administration

The SIT, headed by Additional Director General of Police Subhash Trivedi, includes Commissioner, Technical Education, BN Pani; Director, Forensic Science Laboratory, Gandhinagar, HP Sanghvi; Chief Fire Officer, Ahmedabad, JN Khadia; and Superintending Engineer, Roads and Buildings Department, MB Desai.

The team, which reached Rajkot late Saturday night, held a meeting with local administration in Rajkot in the wee hours of Sunday in connection with the incident.

The bodies were charred beyond recognition. The DNA samples of the bodies and the victim’s relatives have been collected for identification of the deceased, they said.

Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi also reached Rajkot late Saturday night and attended the meeting.

“The prime minister has sought the information of the incident from the chief minister and has expressed grief. The PM has directed that strong action be taken against the culprits,” he said.

Trivedi told reporters on Saturday night before the meeting that the incident was unfortunate and sad. He said the inquiry will begin immediately to find out those responsible for it and ensure no such incident is repeated in the future.

“We will go through all the aspects of the incident and investigate them thoroughly…We will work with commitment and complete honesty and integrity to provide justice to the children who have lost their lives,” Trivedi said.

Additional Commissioner of Police (ACP) Vinayak Patel said 27 bodies were recovered from the incident site and taken to the city civil hospital. Three persons were injured in the incident and their health condition was stable, he said.

“The bodies are charred beyond recognition, and we have completed the process of collecting the DNA samples of the bodies and the relatives who have claimed them so that the identity of the deceased can be established. The death toll is not likely to rise any further,” he said.

Police order closure of gaming zones

Rajkot Police Commissioner Raju Bhargava told media persons that the cause of the blaze would be investigated and that a message had been issued to all the gaming zones in the city to close operations.

Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel visited the incident site at Nana-Mava road on Sunday morning and a hospital where the injured persons were admitted. He has announced an ex gratia of ₹4 lakh to the kin of each of the deceased and ₹50,000 to each injured.

“The fire tragedy in Rajkot is heart-wrenching. I express my heartfelt condolences to the persons who lost their lives in this incident and their families. I pray to God for the speedy recovery of the injured,” Patel tweeted.

“It is very important to ensure that such an incident does not happen again,” he added.

Patel further said that any kind of negligence would not be tolerated and assigned the investigation of the entire incident to a Special Investigation Team (SIT).

In the wake of the fire tragedy, Director General of Police issued instructions to the Commissioners of Police and Superintendents of Police to inspect all the game zones in Gujarat and close those running without fire safety permission.

The DGP directed the police to carry out this procedure in coordination with fire officers of the municipalities.

Condoling the loss of lives in the Rajkot fire tragedy, the Congress said accountability should be fixed in the incident by the BJP government in Gujarat as soon as possible and the culprits should be given the strictest punishment.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge asked party workers to provide all possible help to those affected by the accident so that the victims do not face any problems regarding treatment or compensation.

(Disclaimer: The headline, subheads, and intro of this report along with the photos may have been reworked by South First. The rest of the content is from a syndicated feed, and has been edited for style.)