India

Directors of Calcutta hospital denied bail over fire

R.S. Agarwal, centre right wearing glasses, one of the main accused in the Amri hospital fire, and other accused are brought to a court in Calcutta, India, on 10 December
Image caption RS Agarwal (centre) is one of the directors facing charges

Six directors of a private hospital in Calcutta have appeared in court over a fire on Friday which killed 90 people.

The six face charges of culpable homicide and were refused bail. Officials have suggested the hospital did not meet safety regulations.

Most of the dead were patients trapped in the building, with many suffocated by smoke.

The fire is thought to have started in the hospital basement, where flammable materials were stored.

Those charged include the co-founders of the hospital SK Todi and RS Goenka.

A seventh director is also to be brought to court after being treated for smoke inhalation, the Associated Press reports.

Past warnings

Authorities had warned the hospital over inadequate safety standards in the hospital's basement in September, but no action was taken, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told AP.

The licence of the six-storey hospital, considered one of Calcutta's most prestigious, had been cancelled, Ms Banerjee said.

She has said those responsible will receive the harshest punishment.

The hospital also did not have adequate firefighting equipment, despite being ordered to upgrade six months ago, Calcutta Joint Police Commissioner Damyani Sen told AP.

Four of those killed were staff at the hospital, Mr Sen said.

The hospital had no emergency exits, and all the fire alarms had been switched off, Kalyan Banerjee, a member of the state assembly, told the Press Trust of India.

The hospital denied that any safety measures were violated, AP reports.

Subrata Mukherjee, state minister for public health engineering, accused senior hospital officials of fleeing the scene and failing to help patients escape.

Local residents say they were initially prevented from helping rescue patients by hospital security guards. Emergency services experienced difficulty getting to the scene because of the area's narrow streets.

Fires in high-rise buildings are fairly common in Calcutta. There have been at least 10 major incidents since 2008, with electrical short circuits mostly responsible.

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