Rajkot inferno toll climbs to 33, many still missing in ‘man-made disaster’

Gujarat High Court calls municipal corporations to account on Monday, as reports indicate the gaming zone did not have necessary compliances, equipment and was allegedly storing inflammable materials indoors

Updated - May 27, 2024 12:01 pm IST

Published - May 26, 2024 04:10 pm IST - AHMEDABAD

Firefighters carry out cooling operations and search for remains at TRP game zone at Rajkot, Gujarat on May 26, 2024.

Firefighters carry out cooling operations and search for remains at TRP game zone at Rajkot, Gujarat on May 26, 2024. | Photo Credit: VIJAY SONEJI

At least 33 people have died in the fire that broke out on Saturday evening at Rajkot’s TRP Gaming Zone. More than 15 people are still missing in what the Gujarat High Court called a “man-made disaster”, taking suo motu cognisance of the matter and posting it for a hearing on Monday.

Watch | CCTV footage from TRP Gaming Zone
| Video Credit: Special Arrangement

Neither the State government nor the local administration have given any figures about the casualties or number of missing people since Saturday night. There is also no official data on the total number of people present inside the building when the fire broke out. However, local media and sources have confirmed that the death toll has climbed to 33, and that over 15 people are still missing.

Also read: Fire accidents since Independence – A timeline

‘Capital punishment’

As the scale of the disaster unfolded, all of Rajkot descended into mourning, with many expressing anger against the State government and the local administration. The victims included five people from one family, as well as Vivek and Khushali Dusara, a young couple who got engaged just a few days ago, and are now missing at the game zone, along with their sister-in-law. Families are awaiting confirmation that their ‘missing’ loved ones have died, with DNA samples sent to the Gandhinagar Forensic Science Laboratory.

“Those who are responsible must get capital punishment and till they are sentenced to death, none should get a bail from any court and if anyone gets a bail, I will kill,” said distraught father Pradipsinh Chauhan, whose only son and four other relatives died in the inferno.

A team of paramedics wait as earthmovers dismantle debris of a fire incident at TRP game zone at Rajkot, Gujarat on May 26, 2024.

A team of paramedics wait as earthmovers dismantle debris of a fire incident at TRP game zone at Rajkot, Gujarat on May 26, 2024. | Photo Credit: VIJAY SONEJI

‘No fire-fighting equipment’

Virendrasinh Jadeja went missing after he rushed to the upper floor of the game zone to rescue his son and three other relatives after the blaze broke out, his daughter Devikaba Jadeja said.

Narrating the family’s outing turned nightmare, Ms. Jadeja said, “My parents, brother, and my maternal uncle’s family went to the game zone, and we were at a restaurant while my two brothers and sister went to the upper floor to play a trampoline game. We were sitting in the restaurant when we saw the smoke billowing out from the dome of the game zone. My father and uncle rushed up to where my brothers and sister were playing on the trampoline, and a couple of blasts occurred, and nobody could escape,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.

Witnesses and relatives of the victims claimed that there was no equipment available to fight the fire, and that no fire alarm, raising serious questions about the role of local authorities who allowed the sprawling amusement park to function without any checks.

Administration failures

“What were the local municipal corporation, other agencies doing? This game zone came up four year ago. Why no authority or official was bothered to check whether it had the necessary compliances?” an angry Rajkot resident asked.

Octogenarian BJP leader Vajubhai Vala said the local municipal corporation and its officials could not escape the blame for such a heart-breaking tragedy that has shocked the entire region.

“The unfortunate incident is a result of the BJP government’s utter failure to enforce the laws due to corruption from top to bottom in the State administration,” said Gujarat Congress chief Shaktisinh Gohil.

The undertaking that everyone was required to sign at the time of entry in the TRP Gaming Zone in Rajkot. It says the gaming zone operators will have no responsibility in case of any accident or any incident. Photo: Arrangement

The undertaking that everyone was required to sign at the time of entry in the TRP Gaming Zone in Rajkot. It says the gaming zone operators will have no responsibility in case of any accident or any incident. Photo: Arrangement

‘No fire NOC’

The Police have lodged a FIR against six people, and two have been arrested. “We have registered the FIR against six people under IPC Sections 304, 308, 336, 338, 114, out of which two people have been arrested. The crime branch team is working to arrest others. Our effort is to complete the investigation as soon as possible and file a charge sheet in the case,” Rajkot Police Commissioner Raju Bhargava said.

The FIR says that the operators of the amusement park had not applied for the fire NOC or ‘no objection certificate’, nor did they have any proper fire safety mechanisms in place in the two storey building, which was spread across a 2,000 square metre plot, but was only a temporary structure with tin roofs.

In his briefing, however, Mr. Bhargava said that that the operators had applied for a fire NOC and that the process to acquire it was ongoing when the tragedy occurred.

 Earthmovers dismantle debris of a fire incident at TRP game zone at Rajkot, Gujarat on May 26, 2024

Earthmovers dismantle debris of a fire incident at TRP game zone at Rajkot, Gujarat on May 26, 2024 | Photo Credit: VIJAY SONEJI

‘Diesel, oils stored indoors’

Quoting sources, the local media said that the cause of the fire could have been a spark from the welding work that was being carried out in one area of the park. The spark may have turned into a massive inferno engulfing the huge building because inflammable materials, including diesel for the generator and oils for the various rides, were reportedly being stored indoors.

The State authorities, however, have not made any statement regarding the likely cause of the fire and whether any inflammable materials were stored inside the building. The FIR said that there were many AC units or compressors installed on the building’s walls, while large amounts of electrical wiring were installed in the premises.

‘Man-made disaster’

The Gujarat High Court took suo motu cognizance of the fire tragedy on Sunday, calling it prima facie a “man-made disaster”. The court will hear the issue on Monday, May 27.

A Bench of Justices Biren Vaishnav and Devan Desai observed that such gaming zones and recreational facilities have come up without necessary approvals from competent authorities.

The Bench directed advocates for the Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, and Rajkot municipal corporations to appear before it on Monday prepared to report under what provisions of law the authorities allowed these units to be set up or to continue to operate under their jurisdiction.

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