Eight people died and 11 were injured in a fire that started at an electric scooter showroom in central India, police said on Tuesday. Most of those killed were people staying at an adjacent hotel that was engulfed with smoke.
The cause of the blaze – the deadliest incident possibly linked to electric vehicles in the country – will be closely watched by manufacturers and officials, who have been alarmed by a spate of electric scooter fires this year.
The government has been keen to promote use of such two-wheelers in its fight against pollution. Early investigations of other fires have identified faulty battery cells and battery modules among the main causes.
There is concern that worries about the safety of electric scooters could reduce consumer confidence and derail growth of a sector that is key to the country’s carbon reduction goals.
The latest fire broke out late on Monday in a hotel basement housing the showroom with some two dozen electric scooters in the southern city of Secunderabad, police said.
It had been brought under control and an investigation had been launched, they said.
“There were electric scooters parked where the fire started,” city police official Chandana Deepti said. “We don’t know if it started because of overcharging and then spread or whether it started elsewhere. That is still being established.”
The identity of the dealer and the make of scooters being sold was not immediately clear.
Police and firefighters used cranes and other equipment to pluck stranded hotel guests from upper floors of the four-storey building as smoke billowed out of its windows, media images showed.
“Those staying on the first and second floors were overpowered by smoke and the maximum casualties are from those floors,” CV Anand, the police chief of the neighbouring city of Hyderabad, told ANI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was saddened by the deaths and promised compensation for the casualties in the fire.
In March, India launched an investigation over safety concerns after a string of e-scooter fires, including one in which a man and his daughter died when their e-bike “went up in flames”.
India wants e-scooters and e-bikes to make up 80% of total two-wheeler sales by 2030, from about 2% now.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard