A fire broke out in the congested alleys of Oasis Compound, one of the busiest retail hubs in the heart of Sweet Meat Street, gutting a Chinese goods shop even as traders fled for their lives, once again exposing the lack of accessibility and negligence in fire safety measures in the iconic trade centre of the district late on Saturday night.
The compound, situated in the Moideen Pally Road stretch of the street, consists of narrow, twisted alleyways along which rows of quickly-mantled shops selling electronic goods, Chinese wares, watch shops, and bicycle parts elbow-jab each other for space.
The entire street was engulfed in darkness, with not one streetlight working.
Most of the shops had closed down for the day, leaving the nine fire engines and personnel with no option but scramble to douse the fire in pitch dark.
“The fire started when we were about to close the shop. We have no idea how it started. It originated near the small area where we display toys and electronic items. All of the products in that area have been lost. Fortunately, the fire could be controlled just when it started spreading into the main shop area,” said. P. Shihab, the shop owner.
Electronic toys and perfume bottles were strewn on the floor of the makeshift display area adjacent to the main shop.
Fire had spread to the entire length of the narrow corridor like space which shares its wall with the main shop.
Onlookers jostled with each other in the narrow alley leading to the damaged shop, trying to get a peek, while often stepping onto the fire hoses in a bid to snap pictures on their mobiles.
Kozhikode City Police Chief G. Sparjan Kumar, who was seen coming out of the alley, told The Hindu that this incident was “typical” of the utter lack of concern for fire safety measures.
“Look, accessibility is a major issue here. We have been telling everyone, shouting from the rooftops that fire engines find it very difficult to come in during an emergency. A major incident has been avoided,” Mr. Kumar said.
He said though it was too early to know the cause of the fire, the traders burnt heaps of rubbish near their shops, and there might be a possibility that a spark would have caught onto something and caused the flare.
C.S. Natarajan, a trader who had been doing business in the SM Street for over 40 years, agreed that it was “sheer luck” that the fire did not spread.
“We heard about the fire by around 9 p.m. We rushed out here and saw the flames. If the fire had gone out of control, there is no way anything could be done, considering the lack of accessibility and light in this area,” he said.
This is the third incident of fire in the district this week, following a major flare in a similarly-congested Valiyangadi and a second one at Elathur.