KOLKATA: At least one person was killed and nearly 2,000 people were rendered homeless in a major fire which broke out in a slum, Basanti Colony, in the north-eastern part of the city and raged for four hours on Tuesday afternoon razing 450 shanties. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee visited the scene of devastation and issued instructions for provision of shelter and cooked and dry food and medicines to the affected families.
The situation was made worse as fire engines and vehicles of emergency services took a long time to reach the site since they were held up in several road blockades put up in the city by some political parties and their allied trade unions since afternoon. While initially only three engines could reach the spot, later 22 more joined in to control the fire.
While emergency services were held up at the road blockades, the fire spread to a platform of the nearby Bidhannagar Road station although it was brought under control quickly.
An Eastern Railway release said 12 pairs of EMU trains had to be cancelled and a long-distance train was stopped short of Bidhannagar Road Station. Water shortage in the area further hindered the firemen, who brought the fire under control after about two hours.
Confusion reigned as local residents desperately tried to trace their loved ones. Anxious mothers, unsure of their children’s whereabouts, jostled through the crowds. Once the fire was brought under control, some of the residents rushed to their ravaged shanties, with the embers still simmering, to locate family members or salvage any belongings.
“The fire was caused probably by an electric short-circuit,” said Fire Services Director-General Gopal Krishna Bhattacharya.