The laboratory of the Zoology department housed in Ballygunge Science College was badly damaged following a devastating fire on Monday afternoon.
Preliminary investigation said that the fire which had broken out in a laboratory spread quickly to another laboratory situated on the first floor. The students who were working in the laboratory were taken out safely.
Some university employees saw smoke billowing out of the Zoology department situated on the first floor. They immediately informed the fire brigade.
Twelve fire fighters went to the site and doused the flame. The fire fighters evacuated the students who were working in the labs. They were taken to safety through an alternate staircase. The fire fighters wore breathing apparatus as chemicals had been stored in the labs.
The specimens which were kept outside the museum were gutted or badly damaged. The specimens included a very rare South Asian Dolphin, a juvenile Leopard Seal found in Antarctica, an Australian Platypus, a Pangolin and Marmoset found in South and Central America. Professor Ena Roy Banerjee said the specimens were priceless and had been carefully preserved over the years. Despite requests they had not been insured.
Of the three fire stairwells, two are closed and one was open through which the students were taken out.
A senior official of the fire and emergency services department said that though such rare specimens were kept in the laboratory, the fire fighting gadgets were not up to the mark. The electrical wirings are old and despite that modern gadgets were procured and kept in the labs causing more pressure on the age old wiring. No fire drill has ever been carried out which is mandatory in institutions where rare specimens are kept.
The department of Zoology was set up 100 years ago when Ashutosh Mookherjee was the vice chancellor of Calcutta University.
Two world renowned scientists JBS Halden and Patrik Gades who later wrote a biography of Jagadish Chandra Bose had worked in the department.
The department had received many specimens through exchange programmes. This is the oldest Zoological laboratory in the country. The museum was in bad shape and was recently upgraded.
A forensic team will visit the spot on Tuesday to collect specimens to know the exact cause of the fire.