India: Delhi fire kills 14 at eunuchs' gathering

The site of the fire in Delhi on 20 November 2011
Image caption The fire was reportedly caused by an electrical short circuit

At least 14 people have been killed and more than 40 others injured in a fire at a gathering of eunuchs in the Indian capital, Delhi.

The fire broke out on Sunday evening when a three-day convention of eunuchs was about to end.

It is thought that a short circuit in the electricity line sparked off the fire which then spread to the makeshift tent under which people had gathered.

Local people helped put out the fire and took the injured to the hospital.

The gathering at Nand Nagri in east Delhi was being attended by hundreds of eunuchs from all over India and neighbouring Bangladesh and Nepal, reports said, at a convention held once every five years.

There are hundreds of thousands of eunuchs across South Asia. The term is used to refer to transvestites, transsexuals and people who see themselves as neither male nor female.

Many make a living by dancing at weddings and other ceremonies, but they face significant discrimination and live on the margins of society.

"We were performing evening prayers and many of us were also having food when there was an electrical short circuit in a chandelier. The sparks triggered off a fire and in no time the tents were engulfed by the blaze," Komal, a participant, told The Hindu newspaper.

Fire brigade officials said they pulled out 12 charred bodies from the gutted tents. Two people succumbed to burn injuries later in hospital.

The Delhi government is investigating allegations that the organisers of the gathering had not sought permission from the fire department.

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