Fire breaks out on seventh floor of a building housing a private bank; blaze put out after two hours

A fire broke out on the seventh floor of a building on Park Street in the heart of the city on Sunday — the second major incident in the past 24 hours to have occurred in the area that is considered the city's hub of New Year festivities.

A fireman was injured while dousing the flames that possibly broke out in the server room of the Kotak Mahindra Bank at Apeejay House just after noon.

“The fire created a lot of panic because a thick smoke had accumulated in the upper floors of the building. Fortunately, there were not many people inside and we were able to bring the fire under control in a short time,” said D.P. Biswas, Additional Director-General of Fire Services. Those inside the building managed to escape.

Ten fire tenders, including two sky-lifts, were rushed to the site. The fire was brought under control after two hours.

Images of the Stephen Court inferno in March 2010 further down the street that claimed 43 lives are etched in the memories of the residents of the area and there were fears that Sunday's incident could have taken a more gruesome turn. There were, however, no employees or customers at the bank as it was a Sunday. The building, sharing its premises with the starred Park Hotel, houses mostly offices. It is named after one of the city's major corporate groups that has interests in hospitality, tea, shipping and education.

Mr. Biswas said the firemen working at the spot were able to locate the source of fire quickly.

Thick black smoke and flames were seen emanating from the windows of the building. The dense smoke had spread to the upper floors of the nine-storey structure and the firemen had to break down the glass panels within the office premises to reach the server room where the fire is believed to have broken out.

Once the fire was extinguished, shards of glass were found lying scattered on the floor, mangled wires hung from the scorched ceilings and walls in the bank's server room, now having knee-deep water from the hoses of the firemen.

There was some uncertainty whether the building had abided by the fire safety norms as there were claims and counter-claims whether its fire-protection system worked. While some eye-witnesses claimed that the fire protection system failed, others said they had heard the fire alarms go off.

“When we arrived at the spot, there were claims that the fire protection system inside the building was not in order. So far, we have not found any evidence to support this claim, but it shall be looked into further,” said Amalendu Banerjee, an official of the Fire Services Department.


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