Eight guests suffocated to death and 11 fell ill at a hotel in Secunderabad on Monday night after inhaling toxic fumes as they slept locked in their rooms. The toxic gases are said to have emanated from a fire in an electric bicycle showroom on the ground floor of the building and in the basement.
Police suspect the battery explosion to be the cause of the fire.
The latest incident has caused panic as it is another in a series of e-bike battery explosions that have killed people across the country, including in the two Telugu states.
Monday night’s crash happened at the Ruby Pride “Luxury” hotel around 9.30pm after the victims had retired for the night. The fire originated in the basement, which is believed to have been an illegal warehouse for electric bicycles owned by the management of Ruby Motors, which also runs the hotel.
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Most of those who died were visitors to the city, staying at the budget hotel near Secunderabad railway station.
The Ruby e-scooters sign at the hotel indicated the sale of Gemopai bicycles. Gemopai’s e-bike products, according to its website, include Astrid Lite, Ryder.
Chandana Deepthi, DCP (North) of Hyderabad Police, told DH that police believe the probable cause of the fire, which quickly spread to other vehicles and the surrounding area, is that the one of the bicycle batteries exploded.
“We are investigating the origin, analyzing CCTV footage… looking for evidence. We could also book the relevant e-bike company, reviewing whether they violated production and operation standards,” Deepthi said.
Meanwhile, city police have filed charges against Ruby Motors owners Rajender Singh Bugga and Sumeet Singh for negligently causing the death. The defendants reportedly fled.
More than 35 bicycles would have been stored in the cellar. Police also noticed LPG cylinders nearby.
DCP said all eight died from inhaling the toxic air and coming into contact with the hot fumes.
“Some guests managed to jump from windows, parapets of their rooms and survived. Those undergoing treatment in hospitals are out of danger,” Deepthi said.
The hotel, housed in a five-story building, has 25 rooms and 22 guests checked in on Monday evening.
“Fire and electrical officials would also be investigating. Based on their report, we will file an indictment in the appropriate sections for appropriate punishment for the culprits,” the DCP said.
Some of the deceased have been identified as originating from Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Vijayawada.
Shortly after the fire started, a few residents, with the help of the police, rushed to volunteer in the rescue operations and helped avert a situation with more casualties.