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Negligence led to loss of lives

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TRAGIC MOMENT:A woman breaks down at the SSKM hospital in Kolkata on Wednesday after her relatives died in the fire at Stephen Court on Park Street in Kolkata.
TRAGIC MOMENT:A woman breaks down at the SSKM hospital in Kolkata on Wednesday after her relatives died in the fire at Stephen Court on Park Street in Kolkata.

Indrani Dutta

Kolkata: A day after one of the worst fire accidents in the city, West Bengal officials discussed measures needed to equip the State to tackle such disasters better, while also trying to identify the owners of the heritage building on Park Street whose negligence in upkeep led to the loss of 24 lives.

Briefing the press after the hour-long meeting at the Secretariat on Wedensday, Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen said 10 people were still missing.

“Our immediate task is to clear the debris and search for the missing people,” he said, adding it would take at least three days to clear the rubble.

The government announced a compensation of Rs. 2 lakh each to the next of kin of the dead.

280 flats, 400 offices

The seven-storey Stephen Court, where fire broke out on the fifth floor, had in all 280 flats and 400 offices.

To a question, Mr. Sen said, “It is an old building and if any portion is found to be in a dangerous condition, it would have to be demolished.”

Amid reports that firemen were hard put to battling Tuesday's blaze for want of proper equipment. Mr. Sen said, “It will have to be seen whether they need more helmets and fireproof jackets. The Chief Minister and the Fire Minister will finalise this issue.”

On the issue of the late arrival of a 70-metre ladder, causing anguish, Mr. Sen said it would have to be considered whether ladders could be kept at a central location within the precincts of the city. On Tuesday, ladders had to be brought from two destinations at least 10 km from the scene of accident.

Fire Minister Pratim Chatterjee had said the ladders needed a lot of storage space and took some 25 minutes to arrive on the scene.

Mr. Sen said fire engines arrived within 15 minutes of the police receiving the information. The fire headquarters are only half a kilometre away from the site of fire.

In the fire-hit building, there were unapproved structures which were subsequently regularised in 1984.


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