Hundreds of shops were gutted in a major fire at the All India Industrial Exhibition being held at the Exhibition Grounds at Nampally in Hyderabad on Wednesday night.Nine persons have been hospitalised. Seven people who complained of suffocation due to heavy smoke were rushed to the Osmania General Hospital, while two others who received minor burns were shifted to Care Hospitals in Nampally. Their condition was later stated to be stable.The fire was brought under control and there were no casualties, Musharraf Farooqi, Zonal Commissioner, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, said.Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited managing director NVS Reddy announced that the Metro would offer free transport to people from Nampally since the roads were blocked.The premises, popularly known as Numaish, was packed with thousands of people who thronged the exhibition to spend their evening for shopping and recreation. Police sources said the fire broke out in the stall of Andhra Pradesh Mahesh Cooperative Bank Limited at around 8.45 pm, apparently due to short circuit and spread to several adjacent stalls. There were nearly 3,000 big and small stalls in the exhibition and more than 800 stalls are learnt to have been gutted in the fire.Since the stalls were made of bamboo sheets and cloth, they caught fire immediately resulting in huge flames and smoke started billowing in the entire area. Even electric transformers erected for the exhibition also reportedly caught fire. Panic-stricken visitors, comprising women and children, started running out of the grounds, resulting in a mild stampede. However, police personnel and exhibition volunteers brought the crowd under control and sent them out of the grounds through various gates all around the premises.Meanwhile, 10 fire tenders were rushed to the spot to put out the fire. “The authorities have responded immediately and are in the process of extinguishing fire. Luckily, there are no reports of any casualties,” Exhibition Society chairman Eatala Rajender told the media.Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation’s (GHMC) disaster management team rushed to the spot to take up rescue operations. “It is a massive fire accident and we are in the process of estimating the damage. Since hundreds of stalls caught fire, it takes longer time to extinguish the fire,” Hyderabad mayor Bonthu Rammohan, who rushed to the spot, said.