Cellphones a lifeline, rings and watches help identification

Kolkata: The ubiquitous mobile phone was the last lifeline for some after fire engulfed Stephen Court on Tuesday afternoon, while rings and watches were the only means of identification of victims who failed to exit the building.

Pritish, who had joined the office of an IT company on March one in the building at Park Street, called his mother Pranati, from his mobile phone, his father Pankaj Ghosh said.

"I am in great distress. There is fire all around," said Ghosh while recounting the last time his son called home before the link snapped.

Ghosh and his relatives are still frantically searching for Pritish who remains missing.

But Pompa Chatterjee, who called home terrified after the fire erupted, is no more. She was crying as she spoke to her family members on her mobile saying she was trapped and would die, a family member said.

"We heard her frantic cries briefly," she said.

Pompa's father Debu Chatterjee and mother rushed to Stephen Court after hearing about the fire and identified their daughter's body at the morgue at SSKM Hospital.

Bidyut Acharya, who worked at a call centre, called his brother-in-law Biswajit Roy after finding himself surrounded by flames. "My office is on fire, do something," he implored. The line, then, disconnected immediately.

"I called back twice, the phone rang, but there was no response," Roy, who has been searching for Bidyut, said. For Arati Sharma, who is on the missing list, it was initial days in her new company.

A girl from Asansol, who stayed in the metropolis as a paying guest, Sharma had called her father to inform him in the morning that she was leaving for office with a promise to call in the afternoon. But there was no call.

Sunita Saha had rushed to Park Street after hearing on TV that the building where Rajendra Samanta, her fiance, worked was on fire. She found his charred body at the hospital morgue.

"His wristwatch helped me to identify the body," a tearful Saha said. They had planned to get married in August, relatives said.

Many of the bodies could only be identified by rings or watches that the victims, mostly youths and IT professionals, were wearing.

Also, 18-year-old twins Bijay and Jay Khandelwal, who had joined a private firm in the ill-fated building, were taken away together by the blaze.