Kolkata market fire: Building got clearance two months back
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Kolkata market fire: Building got clearance two months back

After 15 hours, firemen were still struggling to put out the flames that started on the ground floor and were by evening leaping through the ceiling.

india Updated: Sep 16, 2018 19:38 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Firefighters try to douse a fire that broke out in a multi-storied wholesale Bagree market, at Burrabazar in Kolkata on Sunday. (PTI)

A massive fire completely gutted more than 400 shops in Bargi Market, a six-storied building at Kolkata’s trading hub of Burabazar, just two months after it received clearance from the state fire services department.

The fire was first detected on the ground floor of the building at around 2:30 am on Sunday, locals said. After 15 hours, firemen were still struggling to put out the flames that were by evening leaping through the ceiling.

Though 35 fire tenders were pressed into service, they were hamstrung by the narrow lanes in the crowded area that restricted their movement and dense network of overhead wires that blocked the extension of hydraulic ladders.

“Ten firemen have been injured so far. Our men are having difficulty to bring the fire under full control because of presence of highly inflammable items like chemicals, pressurised deodorant cans and plastics items,” said Jag Mohan, director general, department of fire and emergency services.

A representative of the market association, wishing anonymity said, till 4 am, there was no supply of water. “That was a crucial time window when the fire spread.”

‘Clearance was conditional’; building authorities blamed

A fire department official said the clearance given to the building was conditional, and required the building authorities to put in place adequate arrangement for fire safety within a month.

“It seems no steps were taken after the conditional clearance certificate was issued,” said the official, who did not wish to be named.

However, state fire services minister and Kolkata mayor, Sovan Chatterjee, refused clarify why fire conditional clearance was given to the building that did not have adequate fire service measures.

“We have hauled up the building authorities several times earlier and cautioned them. There was no lapse on our part,” Chatterjee said.

Kolkata police commissioner, Rajeev Kumar, who visited the spot said that no lives were lost since no one was present in the building when the fire broke out.

Opposition leaders criticised the fire services department for alleged negligence. “This is not an isolated case. Almost all the buildings in the area lack proper fire safety measures and the state fire services minister is silent on this issue,” said BJP state president, Dilip Ghosh.

“The chief minister dreams of turning Kolkata into London. But the fire services department has failed to ensure that buildings in busy areas have adequate fire safety measures time and again,” said state Congress president and Lok Sabha member, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

Left leader Sujan Chakrabarty said that it should probed why the building was given fire clearance despite not having proper safety measures. “If there is any foul play, the persons concerned should be probed and punished,” he said.

Early on Sunday morning, chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who left for a trip to Frankfurt and Milan for 12 days, had said the fire will be brought under control soon.

Another fire destroyed a fire-cracker unit in Ranaghat of Bengal’s Nadia district about 78 km from Kolkata. Four fire engines fought the blaze. According to unconfirmed reports available till early Sunday evening, the fire severely injured a couple of workers who used to work in the factory.

The disaster kindled memories of major fires in the area. In April 2003, a devastating fire broke out in the Satyanarayan Park underground AC Market in the area that raged for three days.

First Published: Sep 16, 2018 19:08 IST