E-bike battery blast may have led to Hyd fire: Cops

The fire in a Secunderabad hotel that claimed the lives of eight people on Monday night is likely to have started from an electric scooter that was being charged in the basement, a senior Hyderabad Police officer said on Wednesday, based on CCTV footage from the establishment.

Late on Monday night, a fire broke out in the Ruby Pride Luxury Hotel, close to the Secunderabad railway station, leading to the deaths of eight people. An electric 2-wheeler showroom is located in the cellar of the building, where, according to police, a vehicle caught fire when it was being charged.

“The building is equipped with 32-channel CCTV cameras, of which, 25 cameras are functioning. A study of the footage obtained from them after the mishap pointed out the origin of fire and it appears that the smoke first emerged from an e-bike kept for charging,” deputy commissioner of police (North Zone, Hyderabad) Chandana Deepthi said.

She added that police are awaiting reports from the fire department, the electricity department, as well as the forensics team to determine the exact cause of the fire.

Regional fire officer of Telangana state disaster response and fire services department (central region), V Papaiah, also indicated that the fire was the result of an apparent explosion of batteries in the e-bike showroom.

“Either an e-bike, or a generator placed in the showroom exploded, leading to the fire,” he said.

DCP Chandana said at least 28 electric two-wheelers, eight petrol bikes and several generators and open batteries were completely destroyed in the fire. She added that four commercial gas cylinders were also found in the cellar and were leaking.

According to the DCP, four of the five people accused in the case were formally arrested on Wednesday and produced before a local court which remanded them in 14-day judicial custody.

The arrested accused are: Hotel owner Ranjeeth Singh (60), his son Suneet Singh (34), hotel manager Naridla Sudershan Naidu (39) and cashier of Ruby Electric Scooters Jaspal Singh Gulati (59). “Owner of Gemopai Electric Scooters Supreet Singh (30), younger son of Ranjeet Singh, is absconding,” the DCP said.

She said there was prima-facie evidence that the accused had flouted safety norms by setting up the e-bikes showroom and charging batteries in the cellar.

“Absence of all required permissions for the hotel building and e-bike showroom and misuse of parking place are the major lapses for the gruesome incident,” she said.

Speaking about the victims, the DCP said all eight of them suffocated due to inhalation of toxic smoke. “All the victims were identified and post-mortem examinations were carried out at the Gandhi Hospital, Secunderabad before handing over the bodies to their families,” she said.

When the fire broke out, seven people had jumped to safety from the hotel’s windows and police, fire services staff and some local residents rescued another 17 people. “Those admitted in hospitals have suffered burn injuries and also have internal injuries due to the inhalation of toxic smoke,” the DCP said.

Meanwhile, Hyderabad police commissioner C V Anand felicitated and presented a certificate of appreciation as well as a cash reward to Tukaram Gate detective inspector of police A Anjaneyulu, and Market police station constable Rakesh and four civilians for rescuing people trapped in the fire.

The officers and the civilians, without any protective gear, entered the building much before the fire-fighters arrived, the commissioner said.

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