As many as eight shops were reduced to ashes in a fire that broke out in the unauthorised furniture market in Sector 53 at the entry to SAS Nagar from Sector 42 roundabout, on Monday. It took more than two hours for 10 fire tenders to douse the flames. However, no casualty has been reported.
This is the seventh fire incident in the market in the last 10 years.
Though the market welfare association claimed that property worth Rs 1.5 crore was gutted, fire officers pegged the loss at Rs 30 lakh. The fire didn’t come to notice at the initial stage as the market was closed being it the last Monday of the month.
Fire officer, Chandigarh, Madan Lal, said, “We got a call at about 11.30am and teams were rushed to spot, which doused the flames within two hours. Though the exact reason for the fire is yet to be ascertained, but there was possibility that it started from one of the shops where some welding work was going on.”
Speaking to HT, transporter Sewa Singh, who was among the first ones to notice smoke billowing from one of the shops, said, “It was around 11am and I, along with others, rushed towards the shop. We forced our entry into the shop and tried to save the furniture. One of us called the fire office as well. The first fire tender reached in 20 minutes. But the fire spread fast and engulfed nearly eight shops.”
A total of four fire water browsers and six fire tenders were rushed to the spot from Chandigarh, SAS Nagar and Panchkula.
A fireman on the job said, “It was not easy to control the fire as shops had highly inflammable material such as varnish, thinner, foam, cotton stored. Further, these shops are made of tin which makes the fire fighting difficult.”
Seeing their shops going up in flames just before the festive season, a number of shopkeepers were in tears. Some of the shops were not even insured.
Shops from number 11 to 18 were destroyed in the inferno.
Sanjay Gupta, owner of Malwa Furnitures (15-16) said, “I had taken a loan to set up my business and everything has been gutted. My shop was not insured.” The owner claimed to have suffered a loss of `25 lakh.
A UT administration team led by SDM (central)-cum-nodal officer, disaster management, Prince Dhawan also visited the spot.
Ill-equipped fire fighters
The firefighters on the job were without face masks and some without fire suits. In the name of safety gear, they had leather boots and helmets. A couple of firemen were in casuals and in slippers.
UT failed to shift us to safe place, say shopkeepers
The members of the furniture market association alleged that the authorities have failed to provide them a proper place to run the business. A survey to shift the shop owners was done in 2009, but there was no progress ever since.
The traders claimed that the then UT administrators OP Verma in 2004 and Gen SF Rodrigues (retd) in 2009 had assured to allot them land, but to date nothing had been done.
City Congress chief Pardeep Chhabra, who also visited the spot on Monday, said, “We are talking of smart city, but UT administration is least bothered about the needs of the furniture vendors here. The UT administration had tried to evict the traders, who then took a stay order from Punjab and Haryana high court in 1993 against the move.”
On the other hand, sources in the UT administration said the traders had no licence to run the business. “They are illegally running their business in the sake of stay orders,” said a UT official.
President of furniture market association Satish Bhandari said, “This is the seventh major fire incident in the last 10 years. We have highlighted the issue with the UT administration several times but to no avail. We are paying sales tax and income tax, then how can anyone claim that our business is illegal,” he said.