Kolkata fire: More bodies found from Stephen Court, confusion over toll

Last Updated: Saturday, March 27, 2010 - 22:30

Kolkata: More charred bodies were recovered
from the rubble on the fifth floor of Stephen Court Saturday
but there was confusion over the toll with officials of
different departments giving varying figures.

While the fire brigade said four more bodies were found,
taking the toll to 34, Commissioner of Kolkata Police, Gautam
Mohan Chakraborty said three bodies were found and three more
had been sighted under the debris.

He said that search was on for one person still missing.

"Three bodies have been officially recovered today and
three more have been sighted. Efforts are on to extricate the
three bodies from under the debris," Chakraborty told PTI.

Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty, without
specifying the number said, "Most of the bodies have been
recovered except for that of one missing person."

All the bodies were charred beyond recognition and found
during clearing of debris at an area from where a stench was
emanating, Joint Commissioner of Police (Hq) Jawed Shamim
said.

Police sources said the bodies were charred and were
immediately removed by civic workers and sent to the hospital
for post-mortem examination.

A notice was put up at the state-run SSKM Hospital where
most of the bodies were taken as family members held a
demonstration over the delay in conducting DNA tests to
establish their identity.

According to the notice, 29 bodies had been received of
which 16 had been disposed off. Of the 13 remaining, DNA
tests had been conducted on four and would be conducted on the
remaining nine on Monday.

Hospital superintendent D Bhattacharya said the DNA tests
generally took time, adding, "In view of the recovery of more
bodies in the last two days, we think dispute may again arise
over identification."

He said the families had been asked to submit identity
proof and photos of the victims to the Shakespeare Sarani
police station.

"The police station will forward the verified identity of
missing persons to our hospital. We will then recommend them
to the forensic science laboratory for tests, like DNA, to
resolve disputes," Bhattacharya said.

Director-General of Kolkata Municipal Corporation`s
Building department Debasish Kar said clearing of debris from
the building would take longer than expected.

"Many portions of the building are in a precarious
condition and may crumble any moment. KMC workers are being
extra cautious while clearing the debris," he said.

KMC`s Municipal Commissioner Arnab Roy said the
sanctioned building plan of 150-year-old Stephen Court was
missing and could not be traced even today.

"Our staff have been asked to trace the file," he
said.

Meanwhile, the chief secretary said the government
was planning to form a high-powered enquiry committee to look
into all cases of fire and suggest measures to minimise loss
of lives and property.

"An announcement will be made shortly," he said.

He said legal action against wrong-doers would
minimise chances of fire and there was a need to tighten rules
by the police and civic authorities.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, March 27, 2010 - 22:30

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