Many places in the city have become a tinderbox, and little has been done to guarantee fire safety, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee admitted here on Wednesday, after a devastating fire at a market place near the city’s Sealdah station claimed the lives of 20 people who were spending the night there.
“We had instructed hospitals and multi-storeyed buildings to guarantee fire safety after the fire at AMRI Hospitals, Dhakuria (which claimed more than 90 lives in December 2011). But fire safety arrangements still haven’t been put in place,” she said, after visiting Surya Sen Market, where the fire broke out in the early hours.
“This [the fire at the marketplace] is a result of non-planning for several years,” Ms. Banerjee said, adding that there are still several places in the city which are “totally” vulnerable to fire hazards, such as Garden Reach and Topsia. But she had never thought that such a major incident could occur at the market on the Surya Sen Street. Even the State Secretariat isn’t safe from fire hazards, as there are several electrical wires hanging out at some places, she said.
Urging the people to cooperate with the government to prevent such incidents, she directed that an “immediate survey” be taken up by the State government to identify vulnerable places.
“Three months’ time will be given to people who haven’t acted on the basis of an earlier survey [of illegal buildings shortly after the AMRI fire],” Ms. Banerjee said.
“People store plastic, cook and sleep, all in one place. This results in the loss of life. One can buy shop articles again, but cannot recover a life once it is lost,” she said.
Asking shopkeepers to guarantee the safety of their shops and employees, Ms. Banerjee said it “concerns their own survival” as well.
Stating that the State government has set up night shelters so that the homeless can sleep there at night, Ms. Banerjee said most of these facilities aren’t used properly.
Rag pickers collect plastic and inflammable items and store them in their homes, she said, pointing out that the storing of inflammable items in such places results in major fires.
“If required, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation will construct more buildings where people can take shelter,” she said.