The blaze that engulfed the Bagree Market in the central business hub of Kolkata since early Sunday was controlled to some extent but fire fighters were still trying to tame the flames, official sources said on Monday.
Fire fighters tried to control the blaze throughout the day by spraying water on the building from six directions. Some shop owners made desperate attempts to retrieve some of their goods which escaped the fire.
A senior police officer, who visited the area on Monday, said the situation has improved but firemen are still working to control the blaze.
According to a senior official of the fire department it may take several hours more to extinguish the fire.
“Almost the entire building has been engulfed in fire because a huge amount of inflammable material was stored inside the shops which helped spreading the blaze.
“Most of the shops were closed due to which we are finding it tough to reach crucial points. Despite the problems, we are fighting to the best of our abilities to douse the flames,” the fire department official said.
City mayor Sovan Chatterjee, who visited the market, said the fire was controlled to some extent, but refused to comment on how long it would take to extinguish the blaze completely.
“Efforts are on to extinguish the fire. Cooling process is also going on,” he said.
The state government on Monday directed the police and the fire department to find out the cause of the fire that almost gutted the Bagree market and summoned the owners of the commercial building, a senior minister said.
A group of ministers, under the chairmanship of state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee, held a meeting at the state secretariat on Monday to discuss the incident of fire that engulfed the Bagree Market early Sunday.
“We have got a preliminary report from the police and fire department. They have been directed to find out the cause of the fire in consultation with the forensic department and come out with a report,” a senior minister, who was present at the meeting, said.
The minister said preliminary report by police mentioned that even toilets in the market building were sublet to small traders.
Fire fighters had a tough time on Sunday bringing in fire tenders and other equipment inside the congested area. They had to cut innumerable overhead tangled wires to bring in one hydraulic ladder to fight the fire.
Fire personnel also sprayed water on adjacent buildings to prevent the blaze from spreading. Scarcity of water in the area made their job even more difficult as water had to be supplied from a water body in BBD Bagh area and the Hooghly river.
“Water scarcity is a problem here. If there was a water supply from this area we could have fought the fire in a much better manner. Supplying water has been a problem as it is brought from nearby supplies,” another official of the fire department, present at the site, said.
The fire, which broke out around 2.30 am Sunday, gutted at least 1,000 business establishments inside the G+5 market causing huge losses to traders ahead of the Durga Puja.
No loss of life has been reported but six people, including two fire fighters, fell sick after inhaling the toxic smoke, police said, adding they were treated at the Calcutta Medical College Hospital and later discharged.
Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters