Firefighters try to control a major fire in a building housing a college in Surat on Friday. AFP
A video of the fire appeared on social media showing a man on the ledge trying to help students escape the building. Gulf Today could not independently confirm the identity of the man. Media reports suggested that the man saved the lives of two students.
Heaps of praise poured in for the man. One Twitter user said, “Salute to the man who saved 2 precious lives…”
"The students lost their life both because of the fire and jumping out of the building," Deepak Sapthaley, a fire official in the western city of Surat, told AFP.
Images showed blazing orange flames and black smoke billowing out of the building.
Sapthaley added that when the blaze began 50 or 60 people were inside the coaching institute on the top floor of the building, which is several storeys high.
The cause was not yet known.
Firefighters, police personnel remove a body from a building housing a college that caught fire in Surat on Friday. AFP
"The toll has jumped to 19 and includes 16 females. Sixteen persons died because of burns and three others from injuries after they jumped," Jayesh M Patel, medical officer at Surat Municipal Institute of Medical Education and Research, told AFP.
Officials had initially given a toll of at least 15 dead.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who comes from Gujarat state where the fire broke out, said on Twitter: "Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy in Surat.
"My thoughts are with bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. Have asked the Gujarat Government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected."
Local officials said that the fire spread quickly because of the material used in the roof.
It started on Friday afternoon when classes were packed, mostly with teenagers.
Local media reports said the toll could still rise as many students were undergoing treatment at local hospitals.
Residents said the fire started on the 15th floor and a big column of black smoke soon enveloped the building. More than 90 people escaped the building on their own or helped by neighbours, they said.
The deaths occurred early on Wednesday when the temple chariot procession was underway in Thanjavur district, 340 kilometres (210 miles) south of Chennai, the state capital, police said.
The fire broke out due to a chemical reactor leaking monomethyl nitric acid — used for manufacturing several types of polymers — which caused an explosion on Wednesday night, Police Officer Rahul Dev Sharma said.
Afghan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Monday that special forces had arrested the person responsible for the embassy attack. "This person is a citizen of a foreign country and a member of Daesh," he said.
The Bharatiya janata Party (BJP) looks all set to form the government in Gujarat for a record seventh time, according a slew of exit polls released on Thursday.
The three teachers, all in their 30s, reportedly told investigators that their treatment of the toddlers was "discipline,” while the director said he had the document signed only to protect privacy of those involved and denied trying to cover up the abuses.