Rarely has the morgue at the 240-year-old state government-run Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial (SSKM) hospital seen such a procession of charred bodies as it did on Tuesday and Wednesday.
As 20 of the 24 bodies of the victims of the Stephen Court fire arrived, the hospital was found short of forensic medicine doctors to conduct autopsies.
“We have hired three autopsy experts and 20 helpers from Nil Ratan Sarkar Hospital (another state government outfit) on an emergency basis,” an SSKM official said on condition of anonymity.
At the hospital premises, this reporter found anxious relatives, parents, friends and colleagues trying desperately to recognise known faces from the charred mounds of flesh.
Sunita Saha, who was looking for her 27-year-old boyfriend, Rajendra Samanta, said, “The last time I spoke to him was around 1 pm on Tuesday. Around 1:45 pm, I sent him an SMS. No reply came.”
It was the Titan wristwatch that gave away Rajendra’s identity. They were supposed to get married in August.
Confusion reached unreal heights when argument broke out among relatives of Bhagyashree Dhali and Richa Dutta over a single body. The police finally decided to hand over the body only after conducting a DNA test.
Though fire brigade officials are certain that none of those who were trapped inside could remain alive, many in the hospital premises were hoping against hope.
“I am searching for my son here. His mother is waiting at home,” said Kolkata Corporation employee Pankaj Ghosh. His son, Pritish, 21, used to work for a call centre.
“There is fire everywhere. I am in great discomfort maa,” Pritish had told his mother, who called him on learning about the fire.