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Books destroyed in heritage building fire

Staff Reporter
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A minor fire broke out in a book store destroying books on Anna Salai in Chennai on Thursday.Photo: S.R. Raghunathan
A minor fire broke out in a book store destroying books on Anna Salai in Chennai on Thursday.Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

A fire broke out in a publishing house on the first floor of Agurchand Mansion, a heritage building on Anna Salai, on Thursday.

There was no damage to the building, located at the busy Spencers junction, but several hundred books were destroyed.

Fire and Rescue Services sources said the fire in the office-cum-godown of S.Chand & Company was reported around 9.40 a.m. No one was at the publishing house as it was closed for Republic Day.

It was traders in other establishments on the building who noticed the smoke and alerted the fire services.

Eight fire tenders from Triplicane, Teynampet, Kilpauk, Mylapore and Raj Bhavan stations and over 20 firemen were rushed to the spot.

The firemen battled the blaze for over four hours and put out the fire.

Stacks of books caught fire and the flames spread to the false ceiling destroying it completely.

Computers, telephones and other electronic equipment were also damaged.

“An electrical short circuit is suspected to be the cause of the fire. Our teams reached the spot within minutes and managed to contain the fire and put it out completely within hours. More than 50 per cent of the books kept inside was saved,” S. Veeramani, Divisional Officer, Chennai City South, TNFRS. Anna Salai police have registered a case.

This is the second fire in a heritage building this month – the previous on January 16 ravaged the Kalas Mahal in the Chepauk Palace, which housed several government offices.

Both the fire incidents happened on a holiday.

Once known as Mount Road's first 100-foot-tall building, Agurchand Mansion was one of the earliest establishments used for commercial purposes.

This early 20{+t}{+h}century structure is an example of the Indo-Saracenic architectural style and was originally known as the Khaleeli Mansion.

“The Khaleelis were a merchant family with Persian roots,” said historian, V.Sriram, adding the ownership changed hands over the years.

The building figures in the list of heritage buildings compiled by the Justice E.Padmanabhan Committee, he added.

S. Chand & Company's Chennai branch has been functioning from Agurchand Mansion since 1964, said a staff member of the publishing firm.

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