The death toll in the fire at Stephen Court, a building on Park Street here, rose to 24 on Wednesday with firemen coming across the remains of 19 persons on the premises. Ten persons are still reported missing.
Firemen found the charred remains of 17 persons on the staircase early in the day when they finally managed to enter the building, portions of which collapsed in Tuesday's devastating fire.
“These people must have attempted to escape by trying to climb onto the roof of the building, but the door to the terrace was locked and so they were trapped,” said Gopal Krishna Bhattacharya, director-general of the West Bengal Fire and Emergency Services.
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee visited the site and urged the agencies concerned to speed up operations.
“We have done our best,” Minister for Fire Services Pratim Chatterjee said shortly after the Opposition walked out of the West Bengal Assembly demanding a discussion on the incident and calling for his resignation.
Chaos reigned at the SSKM hospital as distraught relatives searched for their loved ones. While 20 victims were identified, nine families claimed the other four bodies.
A DNA examination will be conducted to resolve the dispute over the identity of those victims.
It seems that the fire broke out in the elevator shaft of the building and spread to the upper floors because there were gas cylinders and a direct gas-line there, a fire services official said.