Exact cause of Kolkata hospital fire still unknown

Last Updated: Monday, December 12, 2011 - 00:30

Kolkata: Two days after the massive fire at
the AMRI Hospital that killed 93 persons, the exact cause of
the inferno remained unknown on Sunday as forensic experts
struggled to get evidence.

The deathly silence inside the privately run centrally-
airconditioned seven-storey multi-speciality hospital was
broken occasionally by the shrill ring of the bell by a fire
tender, as the almost deserted premises wore a haunted look
with only a few patients remaining.

Smoke was still seen emanating from some parts of the
debris and water jet from a fire tender was used to douse it.
The fire broke out at the hospital in Dhakuria in the early
hours of Friday.

Forensic experts failed to collect any evidence as the
basement where the fire started was still under several feet
of water.

The experts are expected to visit the hospital once
again on Monday to carry out their investigations, the sources
said, adding that until the basement was drained out,
investigation and collection of samples would not be possible.

The basement was flooded by the fire brigade personnel
for cooling the overheated basement and the walls and to
ensure that no new fire started from any burning ember.

The death toll rose to 93 on Sunday after the death of two
persons.

A female patient rescued from the fire-ravaged hospital
died at a city nursing home.

Medical director of the Belle Vue Clinic P K Tondon said
that 82-year-old Neela Dasgupta, shifted to the nursing
home, died around noon. Tondon said she had some heart
problems.

Neela`s daughter Jaya Dasgupta is the Development
and Planning Secretary of the West Bengal government.

Earlier in the day, West Bengal police constable Babulal
Bhattacharya died at the AMRI Salt Lake Hospital where he was
shifted. He also had some cardiac problems, doctors said.

Several people gathered outside the hospital and placed
wreaths and lit candles to pay respect to the hapless patients
who died inhaling the poisonous smoke from the fire in the
basement.

A silent procession was taken out in the evening from
in front of the hospital to pay respect to the dead and to
protest the deaths of so many patients.

Actors from Tollywood and law school students took
part in the procession holding candles from AMRI Hospital
to nearby Ramakrishna Mission headquarters in front of which
the candles were placed.

A young man, who risked his life to rescue a number of
patients from the fire-ravaged hospital, is now fighting for
his own life at a city hospital.

On the fateful night, 23-year-old Shankar Maity, a
resident of the Panchanantala slum adjacent to the AMRI
Hospital`s Dhakuria unit, entered the hospital with some
neighbours in response to the cries of help by trapped
patients.

A group of people from Panchanantala went in a
procession to AMRI, Dhakuria and gheraoed some officials in
protest against what they described as the "indifference" of
the hospital authorities to those who risked their lives in
saving others.

"We are not asking for money. All we are asking is that
someone from the hospital should visit Shankar," said a
processionist.

Even as the annexe building, where the fire occurred,
was sealed, there were only 18 patients at the unaffected main
building, hospital sources said.

"At present there are only 18 patients at the main
building, which has 182-bed capacity," the sources said.

While no new admission has been made since the Friday
tragaedy, most of the patients have been shifted to other
hospitals in the city.

Hospital sources said that doctors and nurses were
attending to the patients in the ICU and wards which were
functioning properly.

However, operations were not being carried out as the
old block did not have heart care or cathlab facilities.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, December 11, 2011 - 20:31

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