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Seventeen people have died in a fire at a hotel in western New Delhi. A fire department official said some fire extinguishers were found used suggesting people trapped inside tried to douse the fire in a bid to escape.

G.C. Misra, Delhi fire brigade director, said the blaze had been brought under control and that 35 people were rescued by firefighters in an operation lasting several hours.

Officials said the fire started at around 4.30am local time (11.30pm Monday GMT).

"There was wooden panelling on corridors because of which people could not use corridors to evacuate", another fire officer told reporters.

Television showed pictures of flames leaping from the top floor.

Hotel Arpit Palace is located in Karol Bagh, an area popular with tourists for its budget hotels and shopping.

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Most of the victims were sleeping when the fire broke out, and it was believed to have been caused by a short circuit, according to media reports. While 13 bodies were shifted to Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital, the remaining four were taken to Lady Hardinge Medical College and BLK Hospital.

Accidental fires are common across India because of poor safety standards and lax enforcement of regulations.

The rescue took about 30 minutes because fire engine ladders could not initially reach his floor, he said.

Authorities appeared to have been negligent in enforcing building laws in the surrounding area, Delhi's urban development minister Satyendar Jain said.

"This hotel had been built up to six floors". Gautam Buddh Nagar district magistrate BN Singh had said more than 60 people were inside the hospital when the incident occurred.

Unconfirmed reports say the death toll is likely to rise as numerous injured jumped from the burning building to the ground.