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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fire In Park Street Kolkata

24 feared dead in Kolkata's Park Street fire.

Fire In Park Street Kolkata
Bangalore last month. Kolkata this time. Horrific scenes of men and women jumping to their death from a burning highrise hit a metro for the second time in less than a month as a heritage building on Park Street, Kolkata’s party zone, went up in flames.

The afternoon blaze in the landmark Stephen Court killed at least 16 persons and injured 24, many of whom leaped from five-six storeys up. Unofficial sources say the death toll could go up to 23. Ten bodies, four of them charred, were found around midnight on the fourth and sixth floors. Several are missing, including some employees of a call centre.

The fire broke out a little after 2 pm. The sky was bright and blue one moment, blackened by smoke the next. Hundreds were caught in the danger zone — diners at Flurys and Peter Cat, employees in the IT and BPO offices, shoppers at Music World and residents who lived there.

The flames spread so rapidly that within seconds escape routes were cut off. Those trapped had a stark choice — burn to death or jump to a quick end.

A woman, in a sand-coloured salwar, stood framed against a burning window. She waved for a while, whether to plead for help or say goodbye, no one will ever know. Then, as people on the ground screamed ‘no, no’, she jumped. The sickening thud and a piercing wail pushed the shocked crowd a few steps back. Then, they surged back. The window no longer existed. There was just a wall of flame.

Those trapped made what they thought to be their last calls. Here, too, many were left frustrated as cellphone networks got jammed. Richa Dutta, a trapped call centre employee, called up friends several times for help all through the evening. Then, her calls stopped.

Dozens clung to narrow ledges, cli-mbed on air-conditioner cages or hung from window sills that were getting so hot that they scaled the skin right off palms. "They waved and shouted at passersby below for help. But no one knew what to do. A few fire tenders had reached but firemen seemed confused," said eyewitness Tarun Paul.

Every now and then, white-hot explosions rocked the building as gas cylinders and AC compressors blew up. Four passersby saw a young girl jump and instinctively linked hands to grab her. She still fell hard and is now critical. Some desperately tried to rappel down from cables and wires, but most fell.

Many casualties could have been avoided had the two hydraulic ladders arrived earlier. It took them 90 minutes to reach the spot from Behala and Salt Lake, on the outskirts. Armed with the ladders and high-pressure hoses, firemen contained the fire by 5.30 pm, but it was far from out. As dusk settled, bright orange glows could be seen in the interiors. At 6.15 pm, police commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakrabarti, who went into the building, said the fire had been "arrested" in four of the five blocks.

Five of the dead have been identified — Shruti Bansal, Vivek Upadhyaya, Sourav Barik, Pradip Chokhani and

R Krishnan. Many of the bodies are charred beyond recognition. Vivek, a Panditiya Road resident, had joined an office in Stephen Court hardly 15 days ago. Krishnan suffered a massive heart attack when he realised he was trapped.

Locals and passersby saved many lives in the crucial half hour before firemen arrived. "By 2.30 pm, there was panic all around. Some of us got together and asked those hanging from parapets to stay put while we arranged for a ladder. Before we could do so, one person lost his grip and fell three floors to the first-floor balcony. We managed to find a rope and helped four women down. Some others tried to slide down the rope but lost their grip and fell. They were injured but survived. We asked the firemen for nets but they had none," said Raj Malik, a resident of Royd Street, who saved eight lives.

The roof of a small portion of the structure collapsed after the fire. KMC will inspect the building on Wednesday to see if it can be used in its present state.

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Anonymous said...

hats off to u ppl..

pammi on October 25, 2010 at 12:49 AM said...

Kolkata formerly known as Calcutta is prominent city in eastern India and the city serves as capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Kolkata is located in eastern India on the east bank of the River Hooghly. When we say Kolkata that means it also includes the suburbs. The population of the city is 15 million. Kolkata is the third largest city in India and world’s 8th largest agglomeration.Kolkata shopping

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