BOMBAY, India (AP) _ Fire spread through the top stories of a 25-story office tower today, killing three people and trapping others for about an hour high above the beaches of the Arabian Sea.

Firefighters' ladders reached to only the 14th floor, so rescuers had to bring people down the stairs to that level. About 21 people were evacuated through 14th-floor windows to safety.

The fire may have started in plywood and plastic being used for construction by an American consultant company on the 21st floor, said Deputy Chief Fire Officer M.G. Sarkod.

Three bodies were found on the 21st floor, Sarkod said. He said the victims had suffocated.

The fire was extinguished after about an hour, and Sarkod said all people in the building appeared to be accounted for.

Vivek Goenka, who lives on the top floor of the building that is the headquarters to his Indian Express newspaper, said he, his wife and young son fled down 25 flights of stairs after smelling smoke at about 8:30 a.m.

The fire started before normal office hours, when the building would have been full of workers. Goenka is the newspaper's chairman; he and his family are the building's only residents.

In addition to the Indian Express, the Express Towers house the offices of several Indian and foreign businesses. The building is in Bombay's main commercial hub, on the Arabian Sea coast.