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Fire in Kolkata market kills 19

The ghost of the AMRI fire returned to haunt Kolkata in the wee hours of Wednesday morning as 19 people were killed and over 50 sustained serious burn injuries in a major fire that broke out at a market cum godown complex (Surya Sen market) in central Kolkata (Sealdah area).

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to the spot and ordered a probe, asking the Kolkata police, the Kolkata municipal corporation, the fire brigade and the ministry of civil defence to submit a report within three days. The state government will take action on the basis of this report, said Banerjee. Banerjee, who is known to be always present to help the affected in the city’s major fires, also announced compensation worth Rs 2 lakh for the kin of the dead and Rs 50 lakh for the injured (also their treatment expenditure).

Banerjee did not rule out the possibility of sabotage as the cause of the fire. A complaint was lodged at Muchipara thana on behalf of the fire services. As with the AMRI incident, as fire engulfed the building, those inside had a tough time escaping. Locals informed the fire services but at least an hour passed before the engines arrived. The blaze, which may have started due to a short circuit from a lawyer’s chamber at around 3 am, raged till about 9 hours. Most of the victims died of severe burns and suffocation.

The building, where inflammable items like plastic, paper and gas cylinders were stored, lacked adequate fire-fighting services, said Banerjee.
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