19 killed in Kolkata illegal market fire
Kolkata, Feb 27 : Kolkata witnessed another fatal inferno in the wee hours of Wednesday after a fire in a six-storey illegal market building in north central Kolkata's Sealdah killed 19 and wounded several others, officials said.
While most of the victims, including a woman, died from asphyxiation after the flame started at around 3 am, when they were in their sleep, some of the bodies were charred, officials said.
Several victims were workers in the various small businesses housed in the building who used to sleep there during the night. The building had several plastic godowns which were illegally run from there.
"The market building on Surya Sen Street was illegal that came up during the rule of the previous Left Front government," West Bengal Fire Minister Javed Khan told IBNS.
At least 25 fire brigade engines fought for several hours to bring the flame under control that broke out at around 3 am.
A local eye witness, however, told TV reporters that the initial fire department effort was ham-handed since one of the engines that came to douse the flame was without water while water from the pipe of another engine was leaking.
A short circuit could have been the cause of the fire, officials said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the spot and assured assistance to the victims
Many of the rescued were rushed to the Medical College hospital in the College Street area.
According to a local resident, smoke could be spotted since 3 am. Besides 25 fire engines, Disaster Management Group also joined the salvage operation at the spot.
The building has only one exit gate and therefore was causing a lot of hindrance in the rescue operations.
"It is a sad and unfortunate incident. We will conduct a high level inquiry and take action," said Mamata Banerjee after visiting the spot.
The chief minister said Kolkata's areas being unplanned, many godowns were present in the residential areas and that has made the situation grave.
She said for decades everything has developed in an unplanned way and unfortunately several plastic godowns were present in the residential quarters.
She announced Rs 2 lakh compensation for the dead and Rs 50,000/- for the injured.
She said an immediate survey would be done and she urged the people to not live in the same place where they run their plastic or similar business with inflammable materials.
Banerjee said within three days the probe report by cops, corporation, fire service and other agencies would be submitted to the government.
"It is a sad and unfortunate incident. We will conduct a high level inquiry by the fire, civil defence, police and city corporation departments in three days and based on that we will take action," said Mamata Banerjee.
A fire at the AMRI Hospital in 2011 had killed over 90 people in south Kolkata's Dhakuria area while a fire at Stephen Court in Park Street in March 2010 had claimed 43 lives.