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Fire at Kolkata's landmark highrise, four ill

Posted on Sep 02 2014 | IANS

Kolkata, Sep 2 : Four people fell ill on inhaling toxic fumes after a fire broke out Tuesday at Kolkata's landmark Chatterjee International Centre building that houses a large number of offices of multinationals and public sector units, police said.

Over 20 fire-tenders rushed to the spot and controlled the blaze after three hours. At least 10 offices were damaged. Police also deployed a drone to gauge the situation.

The four were among eight people, who were trapped inside the 24-floor building and were seen frantically waving clothes and throwing paper to attract the attention of rescuers after the fire broke out at around 8.30 a.m.

"Those trapped inside were rescued using hydraulic ladders, and sent to hospitals for treatment of smoke-related complications," said West Bengal Fire Services Minister Javed Khan.

Disaster Management Group personnel and firefighters took them to nearby hospitals from where they were discharged after treatment, an official manning the Kolkata police control room told IANS.

Black fumes were first seen billowing out of the 15th floor of the building - one of the oldest highrises in Kolkata - located on the bustling city hub Jawaharlal Nehru Road. The fire later spread to the 16th floor.

However, some eye witnesses claimed that the fire began from an office situated on the 14th floor.

Officials were tightlipped about the cause of the fire.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, now on a tour of northern West Bengal, kept track of the rescue efforts and firefight. She congratulated the disaster management department personnel, fire fighters and police for their good work.

Apart from Khan, Housing Minister Arup Biswas and Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee went to the spot.

The busy Park street flyover, which was closed to traffic after the blaze started, was thrown open around 11 a.m.

Khan said a forensic expert team would collect samples from the building Wednesday to zero in on the cause of fire.

The minister said fire brigade officials would inspect all the floors to see first hand whether the fire fighting system was in place.

The authorities and those whose offices are situated in the building - constructed in 1976 - breathed a sigh of relief at the fire breaking out before office hours.

"We could have seen a repeat of the Stephen Court tragedy or even worse involving loss of a large number of human lives had the fire started even one and half hours later during office time," said an eye-witness.

The dreadful scenes of people jumping to their deaths and completely charred bodies - mainly of youngsters - being taken out in heaps from the gutted floors of the British-era building Stephen Court in the heart of city Park Street March 23, 2010, are still fresh in the memory of many residents.

As many as 43 lives were lost in that blaze. Several people trapped in the burning building jumped to their death as ill-equipped rescuers and firemen failed to reach them.

The Chatterjee International Centre was regarded as the first 20-floor plus building in eastern India and one of the tallest in the country when it was opened 38 years back.

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