Home India News Kolkata fire brought under control, finally

Kolkata fire brought under control, finally


Kolkata : After more than three days of concentrated efforts by firemen, the inferno that raged in a high rise building in Kolkata’s Burrabazar area was brought under control Tuesday.

“We were able to bring the fire under total control Tuesday morning. There is no possibility of the building, which had tilted to its left, collapsing,” West Bengal Fire Service principal officer Gopal Bhattacharya told IANS.

“At least 34 fire engines are still engaged in dousing the flames smouldering inside, especially in the upper floors of the Nandaram market building,” said Bhattacharya.

While leaping flames were not seen Tuesday morning, thick black smoke billowed out of the 13-storeyed building that had developed cracks from the inferno and explosions inside.

A TV report said Tuesday morning the fire was still raging on the top two floors of the building at the heart of India’s largest wholesale market, though the fire service official said the blaze was under control.

Chunks of the building were falling off, turning the entire area into a danger zone for onlookers, media persons, policemen and firemen.

West Bengal Fire Minister Pratim Chatterjee said the building was “unauthorised” and since its plan was not available, fire fighting became even more difficult.

A tall hydraulic ladder from West Bengal’s industrial project Haldia Petrochemicals was brought in Monday night from Haldia, about 125 km from here, to fight the blaze.

“We have used a very tall and sophisticated ladder from Haldia Petrochemicals and it is now being used to douse the flames,” Bhattacharya said.

A lone sky-lift ladder of the fire department was earlier trying to fight the blaze that proved too powerful to be tamed while a 30-member team of army firemen joined their civilian counterparts to combat the inferno that left the entire city shocked.

There were reports of the army personnel leaving in a huff over differences with the civilian fire brigade. Two army fire engines, however, were seen reaching the spot Tuesday morning.

Locals had feared the fire could spread towards another market area called Khamrapatti on one side of the blazing building.

On Monday, journalists of national and local television channels who were covering the blaze were attacked by a mob.

The police said some people wearing blue badges and wielding rods and sticks attacked media persons, injuring some of them severely, smashing cameras and damaging outdoor broadcast (OB) vans of television channels.

The attackers could be a section of angry traders who were not too happy with the coverage, in the course of which the illegal manner of storing explosive items and running businesses was uncovered, the police said.

OB vans of 10 TV channels, including Times Now, Sahara, Star Ananda, NE Bangla and Kolkata TV, were damaged and their cameras broken.

At least 15 journalists, including camerapersons, were injured in the attack. Two of them were seriously injured and were hospitalised.

Magasaysay award winning social activist Mahasweta Devi Monday slammed the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) for failing to extinguish the blaze.

“While Burrabazar burnt they were holding a rally at the Brigade Parade Ground. They are responsible for complete depletion of groundwater and vanishing water bodies,” the firebrand writer said here at a function.

Traders of Burrabazar said about 2,500 shops, dealing in plastics, polythene and other inflammable materials, were gutted and losses could cross Rs.2 billion.

A trader, Tej Narayan Baidya, died Sunday of a heart attack after having lost his belongings.

B.D. Mimani, secretary of the local trade organisation, said “99 percent” of the traders had not insured their shops and would have to rebuild their lives from scratch.

While the buildings burned, the traders and residents wailed as they lost everything in the fire.

It was not clear how the fire began but an electrical short circuit is suspected, though police officials were not ruling out arson.

The blaze, which had engulfed at least eight buildings, broke out at 1.15 a.m. Saturday in the Tirpalpatti market and the adjoining Nandaram complex and continued to rage for more than three days in the Nandaram market building.

Burrabazar is the wholesale market area of Kolkata with clusters of unplanned and unauthorised constructions.