More than 100 people were rendered homeless after their shanties were gutted in a devastating fire that broke out at Bajepratappur in Burdwan on Saturday night, police said.
At around 1.30 am, the local residents found smoke billowing out of one of the shanties.
The incident created panic among the residents as they started running for shelter. The area was soon covered with thick smoke.
After being informed, five fire tenders were pressed into service to douse the flame. It took few hours for the fire tenders to bring the situation under control.
Local people had initiated the work to douse the flames before the fire fighters reached the spot.
They said that the fire soon spread from the shanty where it had originated.
As the incident took place a little after midnight, the people came to know about the fire late. When they realised that a fire broke out in their houses, they started running in despair.
Residents of the slums were found running for a shelter as the fire threatened to spread to the adjacent shanties.
The fire fighters are yet to ascertain the exact reason behind the fire but they suspect that it broke out when a resident left something cooking on a stove.
People from the adjacent areas came forward and extended their helping hands by providing blankets and food to the homeless people. Immediate steps were taken by the district authorities and tarpaulins were provided to the homeless people using which they had spent the sleepless night under the sky.
A section of slum dwellers, however, alleged that there was also possibility of foul play behind the incident. There must be someone under whose instruction the shanties were torched, alleged a resident of the slum.
The fire spread fast as the shanties were packed with inflammable materials. The residents had even failed to bring out their valuables from there.
The local administration has offered all support to the slum dwellers for rehabilitation.
As the election is on, political people could not take part in the relief. Thus, different NGOs are working for the affected people. On Sunday morning aged people were found searching for their valuables in the debris. The work to clear the debris has also been initiated.
The work to reconstruct the shanties will begin soon after the debris is cleared by Monday.