Kolkata: At least 88 people have died and several others seriously injured after a massive fire broke out at the AMRI hospital in Dhakuria of south Kolkata early Friday.
The fire in the basement of AMRI Hospital in South Kolkata`s Dhakuria locality was first noticed by local residents at around 3.30 am who rushed to the gates but were
stopped by security guards.
The fire spread swiftly and the poisonous smoke was sucked by air conditioning ducts that carried it through the rooms of and the corridors of the seven-storeyed hospital located in a densely-populated area.
Most of the victims were asphyxiated to death. Except four hospital staff, the rest were patients most of whom were not mobile. Among the dead were an 80-year-old cancer patient and Congress leader Ajoy Ghosal and a 65-year-old Bangladeshi
national Gauranga Mandal.
The patients struggled to find their way out in the smoke-filled buildings with flames leaping from the floors below as the hospital staff were said to have fled.
Locals alleged fire tenders arrived on the scene nearly two hours after the blaze started.
Firemen have smashed the window panes to rescues patients from the billowing fire and smoke that engulfed the building.
Seven members of the hospital board, including leading industrialist S K Modi and one owners of the hospital RK Agarwal, were arrested on charges of culpable homicide and negligence, Joint Commissioner of Police Damayanti Sen said.
The fire-ravaged hospital presented a ghastly sight as bodies lay strewn on the floor of an operation theatre on the second floor of the main building while anxious relatives milled around hoping desperately that their near and dear ones
were not among them.
Meanwhile, senior vice president of AMRI S Upadhay announced Rs 5 lakh as compensation for the next of kin of those who died, while those injured would be treated free at the hospital.
Commissioner of Kolkata Police RK Pachnanda and West Bengal Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim and other top administrative officials rushed to the spot. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also reached the spot to take stock of the relief and rescue operation.
Personnel of the Disaster Management Group were also rushed to the hospital for assisting in the operations.
"The state government will take strong action against the AMRI group for the death of so many patients after completion of the rescue operations," Public Health Engineering Minister Subrata Mukherjee told reporters after visiting the hospital.
"It was horrifying that the hospital authorities did not make any effort to rescue trapped patients," Mukherjee said.
"Senior hospital authorities ran away after the fire broke out," he said.
Some of the patients from the hospital were taken to the state-run SSKM Hospital, the police said.
There was no clarity on what triggered the fire but the combustive material in the basement lead to the spread of the flames.
The arrested have been charged with negligence, culpable homicide not amounting to murder and attempt to culpable homicide, a senior police official said.
Barring RS Agarwal, the other arrested will be produced in the court tomorrow.
With PTI inputs