Kolkata, Feb 27: Nineteen people were killed in a massive fire broke out in Surja Sen market near Sealdah in Kolkata on Wednesday morning. Fifty people were injured in the tragedy. Twenty-five fire engines were sent to the spot to bring the fire under control. The deaths were mainly caused by suffocation.
The reason of the fire was yet to be confirmed. Sources said the market complex had inflammable items like paper and plastic piled up inside. The fire was detected around 3.50 am and most of the victims and the injured were sleeping at the time. The bodies were taken to the NRS Hospital and Medical College Hospital besides many injured, till the latest reports came in.
Thirty more people were feared to be trapped inside the building. Local Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLA Sikha Mitra accused the Kolkata Municipal Corporation of ignoring repeated requests to set up proper fire-fighting mechanism in the market building.
State fire services minister Javed Khan said the Surja Sen market was illegal and blamed the previous Left Front for not taking action against it.
Kolkata Police Commissioner Surajit Kar Purakayastha, who recently replaced Ranjit Kumar Pachnanda, also went to the spot. He said rescue operations were on.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrived the spot around 11 am. She suspected sabotage in the incident and said a high-level probe would be conducted into the fire and a report would be submitted to the government within three days. She said unplanned construction has increased the possibility of such dangers in the city and appealed to people not to live in congested places that are danger-prone. She was later found personally monitoring the autopsy of the bodies at the hospital.
Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra said it was not time to engage in blame game and a high-level inquiry was needed to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion on the case.
Congress leader and Union minister Deepa Dasmunshi also demanded a probe.
State Governor M K Narayanan also reached the spot and said the fire incidents have been repeatedly taking place in old buildings.
Over the last few years, the city has seen a series of major fires breaking out at crowded places. A massive fire had broken out in the historic Hatibagan market in northern Kolkata in March last year. It took 32 fire engines and a struggle of five hours to bring the flames under control. Although no casualties had taken place, but the loss in terms of property was immense.
The most haunting memory, however, is the Stephen Court and AMRI Hospital fires. Over 40 people were killed in a deadly fire that broke out in the office building in March 2010 while nearly 100 people, including patients, died after a fire engulfed the hospital in December 2011.
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(With PTI inputs)