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Mamata sniffs sabotage, orders probe into Kolkata fire

Thursday March 22, 2012 04:46:50 PM, IANS

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Major fire in Kolkata, no casualties reported so far

A large number of shops were destroyed in a major fire that broke out in Kolkata’s age-old Hatibagan market in the early hours Thursday. No casualties have been reported. Thirty fire tenders pressed into service have brought the blaze partially under control after hour  »

Kolkata: Hinting that the devastating fire at Kolkata's age-old Hatibagan market Thursday could have been deliberately caused, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has ordered a joint probe by the police, the fire department and the Disaster Management Group.

"The local councillors have complained to me that for the last few days some suspicious people have been roaming around the market collecting information. Whether it is a case of deliberate fire or an accident is a matter to be probed which will be done by the police, the fire department and the Disaster Management Group," Banerjee said.

Some owners whose shops were completely gutted have alleged sabotage.

"Promoters have been eyeing the market for long to set up shopping malls here. Who knows may be the fire was caused by them to get the area on which our shops were located," said one of the shopkeepers. His views were echoed by others.

Banerjee said that hawking stalls have been increasing in the area and there were many illegal godowns which resulted in congestion, hindering the fire brigade services.

"The hawking stalls have been spreading. Every day we see new stalls coming up. The hawkers' union leaders in lieu for money are allowing these shops to come up, which not only inconveniences the public at large but restricts and hinders the movement of fire engines in case of a fire," she said.

The chief minister also assured rehabilitation of the poor shopkeepers.

"Although it is a nongovernmental market, there are many small traders who are poor and have lost everything in the fire. I have asked the (Municipal) Corporation to look into the matter and work towards their rehabilitation," added Banerjee.

More than 80 percent of the iconic market was razed in an early morning fire which was noticed first at 2.30 in the morning. Thirty fire engines were pressed into service, and as per official reports the blaze has been brought under control. There are no reports of any injury or casualty.

A forensic team is slated to visit the place Friday.

This is the third major fire incident in Bengal in the last two days.

On Wednesday, at least four people were injured in a fire at two hospitals.

In December last year, a pre-dawn blaze at Kolkata's AMRI hospital left 94 people dead. Most of them were patients who choked to death due to toxic smoke.






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