The death toll in the March 23 fire tragedy at Stephen Court on Park Street here shot up to 43 on Monday.
So far 37 people are reported missing, but it is feared that there have been some people, especially migrant workers, inside the building whose families may not even be aware that they worked at Stephen Court, said Jawed Shamim, Joint Commissioner of Police (Headquarters) of Kolkata Police.
“There may have been liftmen, watchmen and servants at the building who come from Bihar, Jharkhand or Orissa who go back home only once or twice a year. It may be months before anyone from their families file a complaint,” Mr. Shamim added.
Four days after the tragedy, the family of Binit Kumar Karan reported that he was missing. A resident of Jamtara in Jharkhand, his family didn't even know that he may have been on the premises on the fateful day.
As per law, an unidentified body must be kept only for 14 days. After that, photographs and videos are taken and the last rites performed, Mr. Shamim said.
“Several bodies recovered were in a severely charred and mangled state – five of them merely skulls with some portions of the body attached,” he said.
The process of identification made some headway during the day with five bodies being identified. They were handed over to the bereaved families.
A scrap of cloth, an identity card, an old photograph was all that helped relatives recognise the charred remains of their kin. They could take away remains only in polythene bags from the morgue of the SSKM hospital, but that was still a relief for the grieving families.
“At least now I know for sure. I feel terrible for those families who are still waiting,” said the father of Arati Sharma, who was identified on the basis of a scrap of her duppatta.
Six days after the tragedy, the work on clearing debris at Stephen Court was completed, said Faiyaz Ahmed Khan, the local councillor.