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Six killed, twenty injured in Kolkata high-rise fire

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 00:14

Zeenews Bureau

Kolkata: A massive fire swept through a
150-year-old multi-storeyed heritage building housing offices
and residences in Kolkata`s busy Park Street today leaving at
least six dead and 20 injured.

The fire which broke out at the six-storeyed Stephen
Court building at 2.15 pm was brought under control in the
night after the firemen battled hard to rescue trapped people.

SThe toll could rise, Fire Services minister Pratim
Chatterjee said tonight.

While two leapt to their death from upper floors, three
died in hospitals from burns, Commissioner of Kolkata Police
Gautam Mohan Chakraborty told reporters at the scene.

Of the six casualties, a man, identified as Sourav
Barik leapt to his death, while a woman Richa Krishnan fell
when she lost her grip while being evacuated by firemen with
the help of a rope.

Eyewitnesses said at least one woman missed her step
and fell five floors below. "We saw a lady jumping off, but
she missed the AC she was aiming for and crashed down", an
eyewitness Raja Guha, said.

Three others - Pradip Chokhalia, Vivek Upadhyay and
Bikash Agarwala - died of burns in hospital, Home Secretary
Ardhendu Sen told reporters.

300 firemen and 40 fire tenders and snorkels were fighting
the blaze which originated from one of the lifts between the
fifth and sixth floors of the building.
Preliminary investigations indicated that the fire
may have started from a lift between the fifth and the sixth
floors as a result of a short circuit and soon spread upwards
and sideways, forcing people to move out of the windows to
precariously perch themselves on narrow parapets and ledges
waiting for help.

A 70-metre ladder, the world`s second tallest, was being
used to rescue the trapped people while eight bowzers and 45
fire engines were deployed, Chatterjee said.

"At least 12 injured people have been removed from the building that has caught fire and one of them is in critical condition. They have been admitted to SSKM hospital," Joint Commissioner of Police Jawed Shamin told IANS.

"Forty fire tenders have been mobilised till now. The quick response team is also working," he added.

"There are many people still inside the building. We hope to remove all of them from the building," he said.

There was a huge traffic snarl as crowds collected on the arterial road, making it difficult for the fire tenders to access the building

Police said some of the delays were unavoidable. "It
takes time through Kolkata`s traffic to reach from Behala to
Park Street," said Joint Commissioner of Police Javed Shamim.

As a thick smoke engulfed the building, firemen put up
ladders to rescue the trapped people who had scrambled out
from windows on ledges of the building. Several people also
clung to the ledges of the building before they were rescued.

People were seen calling for help with their mobile phones while perched precariously on the terrace or on ledges. Some were waving for help from grilled windows.

Hydraulic ladders were also pressed into service. The fire
was raging even two hours after it broke out around 2 pm.

Stephen Court, located in the heart of the city, houses
the iconic 100-year-old Flury’s confectionery house and a
large music store called Music World and several other

Senior police and fire brigade officials were at the
spot which has been cordoned off to facilitate smooth fire
fighting operations. The entire Park street has been closed to

"We are trying to save the stores and restaurants as
the fire is yet to be brought under control on the fifth
and sixth floors," Chaterjee said.

The police has arranged ambulances to treat the injured
on the spot.

"It is an old building and as such its fire-resistance
capacity is not known. I can`t say if the building can be
saved considering the degree of devastation, Chaterjee said.

Chatterjee said that fire-fighters went inside the
building and were rescuing the trapped persons one by one.
He said there was no lack of water to fight the fire.

Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee was among the
political leaders who visited the spot. She expressed dissatisfaction at the handling of the situation by the state government and said Railways would help in the rescue efforts.

Forensic experts will examine the site tomorrow.

-Agencies inputs

First Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 00:14
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