Dilip Adhikari stood helplessly as he watched the fire surround his 15-year-old daughter and his younger brother on Saturday morning in Subhash Colony Mathpara Bustee. There are around 160 families living in the colony, located near the Patipukur fish market. A railway track runs close by often doubling up as the residents’ sanitation ground since there are no public toilets closeby. Sources said that the colony was located on land that belonged to the Railways and that it had been encroached upon over 40 years ago. The huts built very close to each other, almost sharing walls. There were hardly and equipment to handle a rogue fire.
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Due to lack of space, most residents would divide their house into shanties for their families. Dilip and his three brothers – Sushant, Prashant and Nimai – had been living here since 20 years. They too had divided their house into quarters. Dilip stayed with his wife and two daughters.
On Saturday, at around 2.30 am when all were sleeping, Dilip was woke up feeling hot. It was then that he saw a fire almost licking the roof of his house.
“I ran with my two-year-old screaming for others to get out. Priya, my older daughter, too got up but waited a bit to get her books too. She was a class X student, perhaps she had her exams on her mind” said Dilip, who is in his forties. “I thought I could return for her but the fire had spread fast. My house was surrounded by fire from all sides. Nimai had jumped in to rescue her. By the time I could do anything, it was all over. I could hear their screams, I still do.”
His wife, Soma, hasn’t spoken since the incident. She was later taken to a relative’s place.
Dilip’s sister Pushpa rushed from Hasnabad, 70 kms from here, as soon as she heard the news. “Nimai would always say Priya was his own daughter. He was separated from his wife and his daughter is staying with her,” she said, unable to hold in her grief.
In all 12 such shacks were gutted. Many lost much of their belongings, including cash and school books. But on Saturday everyone tried to support the Adhikari family. “My daughter will never forgive me. I have lost everything,” said Dilip.