At least 50 people, mostly women, were feared killed on Monday evening in a major fire accident in Meerut, 65 km from Delhi.
42 persons who were injured in the incident have been rushed to four different hospitals in the city while 31 bodies are awaiting post mortem in the medical college mortuary before being handed over to their relatives.
According to the district administration, the number of deaths in the Victoria Park fire in Meerut has been grossly exaggerated by the media and the figure is much lower than what is being projected.
The city SSP, S S Yadav and the additional district magistrate Shirish Dubey, the total death toll in the fire is 31 and not 150 as was reported in some TV news channels.
People on the spot however, strongly contest the police version. A local scribe and his photographer claim that over 700 people may have been killed in the incident. "I was one of the first ones to reach here and I could see bodies lying all around," claimed the scribe in a conversation with rediff.com at the venue of the fire.
He did not wish to identify himself lest the district administration harass him later. According to Yadav, the fire took place around 6:10 pm and not 4:10 pm as was mentioned in earlier reports.
While one version said that the fire was caused by a short circuit, another account said that it began in a Chinese shop where noodles were being cooked.
The fire spread within five minutes and as there were only one entrance and one exit because of the air-conditioned hall, the children and women got trapped in it as the fire blazed rapidly.
The Consumer Trade Fair, where the fire broke out, was being organised by Brand India Consumers Forum and was jointly sponsored by the local Dainik Jagaran.
There were clashes between the media and the public who were protesting against the number of deaths being brought down from over 150 to 30.