At least 17 killed in New Delhi factory fire

A relative of victims mourns outside a hospital after the blaze. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW DELHI (AFP) - At least 17 workers were killed on Saturday (Jan 20) in a fire at a factory on the outskirts of India's capital, officials said.

The blaze started in the basement of a three-storey plastic manufacturing facility in the Bawana industrial area on the northern edge of New Delhi, which officials suspect was also used to store fireworks.

The fire quickly spread upwards from the basement, trapping nearly two dozen workers on the upper floors, said an official at the capital's emergency service.

Rescuers took nearly two hours to put out the fire as the search and rescue operation continued late into the night.

"Seventeen bodies have been retrieved from the building," Praveen Kumar, an official at Delhi's emergency service headquarters, told AFP.

Two people suffered injuries and were taken to hospital, he added.

Rescuers were uncertain about the fate of the other workers. Most of the victims died due to asphyxiation, officials said.

The government has launched an investigation to determine the cause of the fire.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was "deeply anguished" by the accident.

"My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. May those who are injured recover quickly," he tweeted.

Deadly workplace accidents are common in India, where there are poor safety standards and lax enforcement of regulations.

In November, a massive fire at a plastic factory in the northern city of Ludhiana left 13 people dead, including three firefighters who were killed when the building collapsed.

Thirteen workers were killed in November 2016 in New Delhi after a makeshift factory was gutted in a fire.

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