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Cracker shop blaze claims hotel guests

Hyderabad, Oct. 23: Thirteen people, including a woman and a child, were burnt to death when a fire, caused by electrical short-circuit, gutted a cracker shop and spread to a neighbouring hotel in Begum Bazar, the business centre of the city, early this morning.

The victims included four employees of the hotel and guests from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat. About 17 persons were injured, of whom seven were admitted to the nearby Osmania Hospital.

The mishap comes within a month of another major inferno on September 24, when a running bus caught fire in Mahboobnagar district in the dead of night. Fourteen passengers on board were killed.

The fire, which began in the Shanti fireworks shop-cum-godown on the ground floor, spread upwards in the three-storey building, gutting a nationalised bank, the Karthikeya Inn and two other shops. Six fire tenders battled for over two hours to put out the flames, an official said.

Firemen who rushed to douse the flames had to demolish a wall to gain access to the blazing building. “There was only one exit from the entire complex as well as to the hotel on the second floor. The single exit caused a stampede and played a major role in the eventual deaths. The construction of the complex was against building norms,” said police officers.

Chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu rushed to the spot later this morning and inspected the site.

The proprietor of Shanti Fireworks, Manikchand Chadha, was taken into custody on his orders and a criminal case of negligence leading to loss of lives has been started against him.

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