Bodies of 27 'burnt beyond recognition' after a massive fire in Indian amusement park, relatives say

RAJKOT, India (AP) — Giriraj Singh waited for hours on Sunday to recover the body of his nephew but was told to head home as the remains were “burned beyond recognition.”

“The bodies are unidentifiable and authorities asked me to wait for the DNA tests,” Singh, a retired army officer, told The Associated Press.

His 24-year-old nephew was with three friends when a massive fire broke out Saturday at an amusement park in the city of Rajkot in western India, killing 27 people, including children, during the busy weekend coinciding with schools’ summer vacation in the state.

Local police officer Raju Bhargav said that while the owner Yuvraj Singh Solanki bought some fire extinguishers and was in the process of installing a water fire impression system, he ran the two-storey place without authorization from the fire department. He said Solanki and the park manager have been arrested and charged with “negligence that led to deaths."

The park’s ground floor housed the reception area while the first floor had bowling, go-carting, and trampoline attractions.

Panicked visitors ran for safety but the narrow gates at the park restricted a quick escape, The Indian Express newspaper reported.

Bhargav said the cause of the fire was under investigation, but there was some ongoing construction work and a spark from a welding machine might have ignited the fire. He added that the rescue operation was over and now teams were clearing the debris.

Relatives said doctors advised them Sunday not to wait and head home as DNA tests to identify the remains might take up to 48 hours.

The state’s top elected official, Bhupendra Patel, visited the fire scene and a hospital where some injured persons were undergoing treatment. Bhargav, the police officer, said three were hospitalized due to smoke inhalation and burns but were not in a life-threatening condition.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on X that he was “extremely distressed by the fire ... My thoughts are with all those who have lost their loved ones. Prayers for the injured.”

Fires are common in India, where builders and residents often flout building laws and safety codes. Activists say builders frequently cut corners on safety to save money and have accused civic authorities of negligence and apathy.

In 2019, a fire caused by an electrical short circuit engulfed a building in the Indian capital and killed 43 people. In 2022, a fire in a four-story commercial building in New Delhi killed at least 27.