Kolkata: A massive fire broke out early Sunday at a multi-storey building, which houses nearly 1000 business establishments, in the congested Bagree Market here, a senior official of the fire department said.
No casualty has been reported so far but the fire continues to rage even after nine hours in the market, which is around a kilometer away from the Writers’ Building and the Reserve Bank of India office.
Thirty fire tenders have been pressed into service to douse the fire at the building, which houses mainly cosmetics and toy stores.
“As the area is very congested, we are finding it difficult to work. We are using ladders and gas cutters to cut through grills of gates and windows to enter the building,” the senior official said.
The fire broke out on the ground floor of the building on Canning Street and spread to other floors quickly, he said.
“Even after nine hours, we are finding it difficult to contain the fire. A forensic team will be visiting the site to ascertain its cause. As innumerable inflammable articles were stacked inside the building, the blaze spread quickly,” he said, adding cracks have appeared in the building.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who left for business summits in Germany and Italy, told reporters at the airport, “Nobody is trapped in the building. Also, no report of any casualty or injury has reached us.”
Unconfirmed reports said people, who resided in the top floor of the building, managed to escape as soon as the fire broke out.
Fearing that the blaze may spread, people were also evacuated from adjacent buildings.
A few angry shop owners alleged that fire officials took time to start the operation. Some were also seen trying to enter the building forcefully, but were stopped by fire department officials.
Anil Mehta, one of the shop owners, said, “I have lost everything in the blaze. My store as well as godown has been gutted in the fire.”
Mayor Sovan Chatterjee, who reached the spot along with senior police officers and Kolkata disaster management group (DMG) officials, told reporters that shop owners had not installed fire safety equipment despite warnings.
“We have visited Bagree Market several times and asked shop owners to take precautions against such incidents. The fire department had also recommended steps to ensure safety. However, no such measures were taken,” he said.
Asked if he would take any action against defaulters, the mayor replied in the affirmative.
“The incident could have been averted if safety measures were taken on time. The market authorities will be held accountable for the blaze. As of now, we are trying our best but fire fighting operation is tough here because of the number of buildings on the street,” he stated.
Traffic restrictions have been imposed in the area owing to the fire.
“Due to a fire incident, Rabindra Sarani in between MG Road & Podder Court and Canning Street in between Brabourne Road & Rabindra Sarani are closed to traffic,” the Kolkata Traffic police department tweeted.