Kolkata fire: 2 arrested for negligence | kolkata | Hindustan Times
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Kolkata fire: 2 arrested for negligence

The caretaker of the 150-year- old heritage building on upscale Park Street and his assistant were arrested on Wednesday for negligence and other charges as the toll in the fire that swept through it climbed to 24 with the recovery of eight more bodies.

kolkata Updated: Mar 24, 2010 22:25 IST

The caretaker of the 150-year- old heritage building on upscale Park Street and his assistant were arrested on Wednesday for negligence and other charges as the toll in the fire that swept through it climbed to 24 with the recovery of eight more bodies.

The fire brigade against caretaker Tarun Bagadia along with his assistant Ramshankar Singh lodged an FIR, Kolkata Police Commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakraborty said.

The promoter of the seven-storey Stephen Court building is absconding, police said.

Chakraborty said the fifth and sixth floors of the building where the fire broke out yesterday afternoon were constructed illegally. "These were later regularised," he said.

According to records with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, there is one official trustee of the building along with 45 apportioned shareholders. KMC has declared has declared Stephen Court as a Grade-II heritage building for its architectural value.

Of the 18 bodies identified, one is that of a child. Four bodies were charred beyond recognition and police said DNA would have to be conducted to establish their identity. At least five people jumped to their death.

Relatives of 15 missing persons carried photographs of their near and dear ones trying to trace them in the busy area.

The Stephen Court, located in the heart of the city, houses the iconic 100-year-old Flury's confectionery house and a Music World outlet and several other offices.

Preliminary investigations indicated that the fire could have broken out due to a short circuit in a lift between the fifth and sixth floors.

It was a disaster waiting to happen with haphazard wiring, inflammable material like wooden stairs, cables and metal beams besides closed exit points, said a resident.

The two top floors, where the fire broke out, were added around 1984 and have 32 apartments.

Commissioner Chakraborty said work has started to pull down the endangered portion.

A foul smell emanating from the debris raised fears of the body count going up.

"We fear some bodies are there. We are removing the debris slowly. There is a lot of debris and it will take time to clear to see whether there any more bodies," Chakraborty said.

The West Bengal government announced compensation of Rs two lakh each to the families of the deceased.

Meanwhile, there were conflicting claims over the number of persons missing. While Fire Services Minister Pratim Chatterjee said that 24 people were missing, Commissioner Chakraborty put that number at 12-15.

According to Chatterjee, 13 injured were admitted to different hospitals.

A six-member forensic team visited the site and collected samples.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee visited the building for 10 minutes on his way to the state secretariat. He instructed the police and the fire brigade to rescue anyone trapped inside and asked the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to pull down the damaged portion of the building, which the state government had ordered to be vacated.