Updated: March 9, 2021 8:27:43 am
A massive fire at the Eastern Railway headquarters claimed seven lives here on Monday. Firefighters, and railway and police officials are among those dead.
The blaze broke out on the 13th floor of the 14-storied New Koilaghat building on Strand Road at 6.10 pm. According to Fire Minister Sujit Bose, those who died were going up in an elevator for search and rescue.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the spot at night and confirmed the deaths. She also announced Rs 10-lakh compensation for the next of kin of the deceased.
“You all know that it is Railways office and a very old one. Seven persons have died. Our fire officials, RPF [Railway Protection Force], and the police have lost lives. They were in the elevator and got trapped in the fire. We have recovered charred bodies. Though deaths cannot be compensated, yet announcing Rs 10 lakh for the families of the deceased and one government job for a family member. It is a Railways office, I thought someone from their side will be here. I have enquired, none came. Railways are also accountable. We wanted a building plan but did not receive cooperation in that too, I have been informed. I do not want to politicise it. The death toll can rise to nine,” Banerjee told reporters.
The chief minister advised people not to use elevators during fires. “We must be careful. We shouldn’t use lifts when a fire breaks out. It is a very unfortunate incident,” she added.
The police did not label as dead those feared to have perished in the fire, and instead said seven people were “missing”. Six of the seven were identified as fire officials Girish Dey, Sourav Bej, Aniruddha Jana and Biman Purkayat, Assistant Sub-Inspector Amit Bhaval, and senior railway official Partha Sarathi Mondal. One RPF official could not be identified.
Sujit Bose — who visited the spot along with Commissioner of Police Soumen Mitra, Joint CP (Crime) Murlidhar and other senior police and administrative officials — told The Indian Express, “The incident is very unfortunate, seven persons died. I have been here since evening. Twenty-five engines were deployed to douse the fire. Those who died were climbing using the elevator.”
Earlier in the evening, Kolkata Municipal Corporation administrator and state minister Firhad Hakim had said, “We could only reach the sixth floor, after which nothing was visible. Though fire is controlled, the rescue team has gone inside and search-and-rescue operation is on. To ascertain the actual number of death, if any, or the injured can only be possible once the rescue team comes out.”
After the fire erupted, 10 fire tenders were immediately sent to the spot. The officer in charge of the Hare Street police station, additional police force, a high radio flying squad, and the Kolkata Police’s Disaster Management Team were also deployed even as police control room vans were diverted there. Fire officials said hydraulic ladders and skylifts were used to control the fire while most of the floors were evacuated in time with the help of the police and fire officials. Sources said people in adjacent buildings were also alerted.
Meanwhile, Eastern Railways initiated an inquiry into the incident. “Eastern Railway will conduct a top-level inquiry under the leadership of the Chief Safety Officer,” the division’s Chief Public Relations Officer Kamal Deo Das told the media.
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