Scores of people gathered outside the remains of the Surya Sen market on Thursday, some grieving the loss of their family members, many of whom were the sole wage earners, while those who survived, ruing their fate at having to see their entire life savings go up in smoke.
On day after the devastating blaze that claimed 19 lives, a pall descended over the neighbourhood and tension surged through the air.
Shop owners were given a last chance to rummage through the debris to try and retrieve any belongings that may have survive, before cops cordoned off the building. Forensic teams were deployed to investigate the cause of the fire.
One of the issues making the rounds was the fact that the chief minister had little to offer to those who survived the fire but lost their life savings and sources of livelihood.
“The chief minister announced compensation only for the dead and injured. What about the others who have survived but have nothing to live for? It would’ve been better if we’d died; at least our families would receive R2 lakh to start a new life,” said Khardah resident Rabindranath Ghosh, who owned a shop and warehouse in the ill-fated building.
Shopkeepers demanded compensation for the losses they suffered by Wednesday’s fire.
“We will take our demand to the administration. Many had invested their lives’ savings in the Surya Sen market. With everything burnt to ash and not even a peen recovered from the ashes, it will be difficult to run our families,” said a shop owner who lost his grocery store in the fire.
On Wednesday evening, the chief minister rapped Task Force official for the lack of fire safety devices in city markets. Fire department sources confirmed that 42 markets under the Kolkata Municipal Corporation were served notices on their fire safety standards.
Only 29 markets have been given no-objection certificates. Task Force officials were asked to ensure that the main entrances to market complexes do not remain closed over the course of the day. Shopkeepers are no longer allowed to live inside markets and police officials to be deployed at all complexes.
Shop owners in buildings near Surya Sen market are apprehensive that they may not be so lucky next time.
“The whole area is dotted with old, congested buildings, with wires dangling dangerously. Many lack the requisite fire safety norms. There is a fear among the rest of us that fire may strike us too,” said Uttarpara resident Ashok Basu, who owns a binding business in the building just next to Surya Sen market.
Meanwhile, three more fires struck the city on Thursday, but claimed no lives. Fire ravaged a perfume-manufacturing unit in Chattaranjan Avenue, a restaurant-cum bar in Esplanade and a residential building in Rajabazar, but was curbed by fire tenders before they could spiral out of control.
The continuing fire hazards across the city have put question marks on the compliance to fire norm.