A devastating fire raged through the main market square of Darjeeling town in West Bengal, bringing back memories of the horror of 1971. In 1971 the same patch of the market had been razed to the ground.
The fire broke out at around 2.15 am at MP Road. According to a local resident the fire started from a wooden shop, the floor of which gave way and spread rapidly after two LPG cylinders burst in the restaurant on the ground floor of the same building. With the area densely populated with wooden shops without any gaps, in no time the fire spread.
Local residents; Fire tenders from Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Bijanbari; Green Force of the Dera Saccha Sauda; Army (21 Madras and 11 Gorkha Regiment) together managed to contain the fire by 7am. With acute water scarcity, private water tankers pitched in to help.
"Around 90 shops have been gutted. Though estimates have not been made of the loss, it would be to the tune of above Rs 2 Crores" stated Saumitra Mohan, District Magistrate, Darjeeling. Most of the schools including St Joseph's and Loreto Convent declared a closure.
"The cause of the fire has not been ascertained. Prima facie it could be from a short circuit" stated a fire officer. "I remember the fire in 1971. The same stretch had been gutted. I had then helped as a student" stated Sher Bahadur Rai, a retired army personnel.