Copious tears were shed because the burning stockpile of red chilli at a shop spread fumes that struck at the people's lachrymal glands in this crowded market.
The blaze occurred in a 'kirana' (provisions) store Monday morning, said Raju Agarwal, owner of Hanuman Food Store on Kalakar Street. The fire was noticed around 10.45 a.m. when Agarwal's staff drew his attention to a peppery smell and smoke wafting from the shop's mezzanine floor.
Agarwal said first smoke and then flames engulfed the shop.
Within minutes, a thick haze of spicy smoke enveloped the entire neighbourhood, leading to severe irritation in the eyes.
A firefighter said the condiments kept in the store caught fire and produced smoke that caused a burning sensation in the eyes.
A fire officer said the fumes delayed fire-fighting and admitted special breathing equipment had to be summoned for entering the shop.
The shop burned till 1 p.m.
Initially, residents had rushed to lend a helping hand in controlling the fire and rescue work. But, the chilli smoke compelled them to beat a hasty retreat. Many people were left choking, coughing and wheezing.
--IANS (Posted on 01-01-2014)