50 shops gutted at Lakhnour furniture market in Mohali
Over 2,000 families dependent on market; cause of fire not known yet.Updated: Apr 28, 2018 15:28 IST
“I saw my saw mill burn to ashes. Nothing could be saved, as the fire spread within minutes,” said Om Prabhat Sharma, whose shop at the furniture market in Lakhnour village, Mohali, was among 50 that were destroyed in a blaze that started in the wee hours of Friday.
The fire that started around 3am spread fast, engulfing 50 of 80 shops in the market. It took eight fire tenders from Mohali and one each from Chandigarh and Dera Bassi two hours to douse the flames.
The reason behind the fire has not been ascertained yet. According to shopkeepers, each shop had furniture and raw material worth at least Rs 5 lakh.
Situated opposite the Border Security Force (BSF) camp on the Chandigarh-Landran road, the furniture market came into existence in 2003 after many shopkeepers were shifted out of Phase 2.
For the past 10 years, Prabhat Sharma had been earning his livelihood from his saw mill. Like him, there are about 2,000 families dependant on the market.
Sitting on a chair holding his head outside his burnt shop, another trader, Hari Ram, said: “I got a call about the fire around 3:30am. By the time I reached here, everything was gone.” Hari Ram, like all others in the market, closes shop at 9pm.
“We never thought fire could break out in our market as we don’t have a power connection and all shops use generator sets,” said Manoj Kumar, who helps his father run a saw mill. There are four saw mills in the market that have been completely destroyed.
Sucha Singh, who has been transporting raw material and furniture for the past 15 years, lost his cargo vehicle in the fire. “I still have to pay back Rs 80,000 I borrowed from my friends to buy the Tempo Traveller,” he said, pointing to the burnt vehicle that was parked in the market.
Playing with fire
Tin sheds with highly combustible materials, such as thinners, varnish and wood, were stored in the shops.
“There is no arrangement of water in the market, even when highly combustible materia is stored here,” said Mohali fire officer Arun Kumar, adding they are looking into what caused the fire.
“There has been no checking by the fire department. A few shopkeepers have kept fire extinguishers, but not all,” said Rajesh Kumar, president of the market association, while pointing to lack of facilities.
Mohali subdivisional magistrate RP Singh visited the spot in the morning. “Most shopkeepers did not have an electricity connection,” he said.
Punjab cabinet minister and local MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu also visited the spot and assured the shopkeepers of shifting them to an alternative place.