Death count in Kolkata blaze rises to 30


Kolkata: The death count in the killer blaze at Stephen Court shot up to 30 Friday with the recovery of half a dozen burnt bodies from the rubble of the building, police said.

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The bodies – shrunk and unrecognisable – were discovered while clearing the debris from the landmark structure on the city’s happening Park Street, famous for its fine dining, restaurants and night life.

“Two bodies were sent to the S.S.K.M. Hospital morgue in the morning. One more body was found later in the day. Now three more bodies have been recovered. We will be sending these to S.S.K.M. a little later,” Joint Commissioner of Police Jawed Shamim told IANS.

The condition of the bodies was so bad that only a post-mortem examination could determine their gender, he added.

Meanwhile, following an appeal by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, the Calcutta High Court Friday gave permission for dismantling the dangerous portions of the century-old structure while clearing the rubble.

The court Thursday ordered the authorities not to demolish any part of the structure without taking leave of the judiciary.

A day after staging an angry demonstration against the authorities who had refused to let them inside the building on safety grounds, the residents of Stephen Court were allowed to visit their flats for half an hour accompanied by rescue workers to take out essential belongings.

An elderly resident could not get into his fifth floor flat, even with the help of rescue officials, because of the debris piled up outside his door.

However, a sixth floor resident managed to get in. “I went into my flat and got my essential belongings. Nothing has happened to my flat,” she said.

Many residents said they wanted more time to access their homes.

“It will be very nice if we are allowed to access our flats for some more time for at least two-three days so that we can take out more belongings,” said an elderly resident.

Kolkata Police Commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakrabarti said: “Our first priority is to clear the debris and bring out the bodies if there are any, because there are people still missing. We have allowed the residents to take out their belongings but we will not allow anyone to stay in their flats.”

After remaining shut for three days, the iconic Flurys tea room housed in Stephen Court opened its doors, albeit from another nearby address.

The fire broke out Tuesday afternoon and swept through two floors of the residence-cum-office block, trapping scores of people.

Six people died Tuesday after jumping from the upper floors in a desperate bid to save themselves. Eighteen charred bodies were found by Wednesday morning from the sixth floor. About a dozen people are still untraced.

Built by an Armenian, Stephen Arathoon, in 1910 Stephen Court also has the famous eatery Peter Cat, besides Cafe Coffee Day and One Step Up restaurant as tenants.