A major fire swept through a resto-bar located in a 70-year-old building in a busy area in Bengaluru, killing five employees in their sleep, police said.
The blaze broke out in Kailash Bar and Restaurant on the ground floor of the Kumbara Sangha (potters association) building at Kalasipalya around 2.30 am, when smoke was noticed and fire brigade alerted by some persons nearby, police said.
"Fire services were pressed into action. Two fire tenders and one fire rescue vehicle attended to it and it has been doused...The cause of the fire is not known and is being investigated," a senior police officer said.
Resto-bar owner V R Dayashankar who went absconding after the incident was later arrested, police said.
Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy told reporters at the spot that it was the responsibility of the owner to look after the safety of his employees and ‘police will book cases against him and arrest him’.
Reddy also said the city civic body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) should have ensured safety.
"BBMP and excise department should have looked into the safety aspect of the building. The owner should have also considered whether to allow his employees to stay in the building.”
Police suspects that though the owner was the licence holder to run the business, he had leased it to someone else.
The victims were identified as Swami, 23, Prasad, 20, Mahesh, all natives of Tumakaru, Manjunath, 45, from Hassan and Keerth, 24, from Mandya.
Bengaluru development minister K J George who visited the spot along with Bengaluru Mayor R Sampath Raj announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the next of the kin of the deceased.
Condoling the deaths, George said, "Whoever is guilty in the incident will not be spared."
"This is a 70-year old building where the incident happened. We'll wait for the forensic and post mortem report. It appears all the five died of suffocation," he said.
Sampath Raj said the BBMP will carry out fire safety audit of all high rise and commercial buildings.
He said several bars had already been sealed and notices issued to some others for violation of relevant rules.
Police Commissioner T Suneel Kumar said at the site that a case has been registered against the owner of the resto-bar under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code which pertains to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Teams had been formed to nab the owner.
The incident comes close on the heels of a devastating fire at a plush rooftop pub hosting a birthday party at the Kamala Mills compound in an upscale locality in Mumbai that left 14 dead on December 29.
Fire and emergency services in Bengaluru had recently launched a safety audit of restaurants, bars and pubs in the city.