Two more bodies found, Stephen Court death count 36


Kolkata : Two more bodies were extricated from the debris of Stephen Court early Monday, taking the toll in the city’s worst fire six days ago to 36, police said. Thirteen people continue to be missing.

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The two charred bodies were recovered from the fifth floor of the fire ravaged building, where civic workers and firemen are working 24×7 to clear the rubble amidst an unbearable foul smell and dirt.

“The two bodies were found in the early hours. It is not possible to recognise the gender of the bodies. Only a post mortem examination can do it,” an officer manning the city police control room here told IANS.

He said the corpses have been handed over to the state-run SSKM hospital for identification by the families of the victims, who have been on a round the clock vigil at the hospital premises for the past six days with the hope of seeing their near and dear ones – dead if not alive.

Leaping flames engulfed the upper floors of the iconic building on Park Street last Tuesday. Only 20 of the bodies have been identified beyond any doubt so far. Several bodies have multiple claimants. DNA tests are being conducted to identify the disputed bodies and those that are completely unrecognisable.

Opposition parties have jumped in to derive political mileage from the tragedy.

Union Finance Minister and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee demanded a probe to find out if the inferno occurred due to “some negligence”. Describing Tuesday’s blaze as “heart-rendering” and “pathetic”, Mukherjee told reporters Sunday the probe should establish whether proper safety measures had been taken by the authorities.

“A probe is needed. It should look into why the mishap occurred, whether proper safety measures had been taken,” Mukherjee, who is also the state Congress president, said.

“The probe should find out whether it occurred because of some negligence, so that such incidents don’t recur,” he added.

Going a step further, main opposition Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee pressed for a time-bound judicial inquiry under a serving judge.

“And if they cannot do it, then they should seek a CBI probe. And mind you, the CBI probe should be impartial,” she said, after walking in a two kilometre procession from Birla Planetarium to Stephen Court alongside families of the victims and those missing.

The fire swept through two upper floors of the residence-cum-office block on the bustling Park Street March 23, trapping scores of people.

Six people died Tuesday after jumping from the top floors in a desperate bid to save themselves. Twenty-eight other charred bodies have been found till Monday morning.

Built by Armenian Stephen Arathoon in 1910, Stephen Court also housed the iconic Flury tea room, the famous eatery Peter Cat, besides Cafe Coffee Day and One Step Up restaurants.