|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Kolkata marker fire brought under control: Army
January 14, 2008 23:36 IST
After battling for more than three days, the Army and Fire Brigade on Monday night brought under control the blaze in a multi-storeyed building, in the country's biggest wholesale market in Burrabazar at Kolkata.
"We have taken control of the situation now and hopefully we will be able to put out the fire by tonight," said Lieutenant Colonel Sanjeev Kumar Vohra of the Army (Ordinance) Depot, Panagarh.
Fire brigade sources said that the fire in eight out of the 13 floors of Nandaram Market had been put out and the flames in the remaining four floors had been restricted from spreading.
"To control the fire, which broke out on Friday night, we are spraying foam. We had earlier thought of using carbon dioxide but since we needed a huge amount, we settled for
foam," said Vohra, who has been on the scene for the last two days with a 50-member Army team, including 12 fire-fighting experts assisting the 300 men of the Fire Brigade.
He said the fire-fighters had to break the shutters of 970 shops in the 13-storeyed market to take control of the fire in individual shops.
The Army fire-fighters attempted to climb to the ninth floor but were beaten back by the heat, he said. One fire brigade officer lost one of his eyes while fighting the blaze and one of his colleagues sustained burn injuries.
The delay in extinguishing the blaze sparked anger among traders, who attacked mediapersons and damaged Outdoor Broadcasting vans and cameras, claiming that a proper picture of the losses suffered was not being given.
Cracks appeared in the front portion of the building, which has tilted slightly to the left.
West Bengal Fire Services Minister Pratim Chatterjee said that the building was unauthorised and its plan unavailable to firemen, which had made it difficult for them to control the fire.
He said a very tall ladder has been requisitioned from Haldia Petrochemicals and a helicopter kept on standby to control the blaze.
Lieutenant Colonel Vohra pointed out that there was lack of coordination between the Fire Brigade and the Army fire-fighters. "Had there been proper co-ordination, we could have controlled the fire much earlier."
The Army, which was at the scene from Saturday morning, was not able to take control of the operation due to non-cooperation by the Fire Brigade, he alleged. "The fire brigade did not allow us to use the turntable ladder and there was lack of water."
Pratim Chatterjee admitted, "Initially there was lack of coordination between the Fire Brigade and the Army but now there is no problem."
Fire Brigade sources said that while the Army was using foam, the water sprayed by the fire brigade washed it away. Earlier, Chatterjee said that foam was effective in controlling petroleum fires but it was not of much use in this case.
He said inflammable material were stored in the building, which had no fire-fighting arrangement, with people living and cooking inside.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation said the 13-storeyed building had sanction only for five floors. Home secretary P R Roy indicated that a high-level probe into the fire would be ordered by the West Bengal government.