A blaze broke out Monday afternoon burning to ashes more than 50 shops, mostly of wholesale traders of potatoes and onions, in the extended part of the 144-year-old iconic Sir Stuart Hogg Market, popularly known as New Market, in Kolkata.
However, nobody was injured, officials said, adding the fire broke out from a decorators’ shop, probably due to a short circuit, at about 12.30 this afternoon and soon spread to nearby shops. It took 21 fire tenders about three hours to bring the blaze under control, fire officials said.
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According to the officials, the fire damaged the entire 12,000 sq ft market on the Finik Bazar Road, which is behind the main market. About 38 stalls inside and 20-22 stalls outside the market were gutted in the fire. The damage to the property is yet to be ascertained.
“Nobody was injured in the fire as everybody inside the market were evacuated on time. Our officers responded well to the situation and that is the reason the fire was brought under control so fast and it could not spread,” Director General of fire services Sanjay Mukherjee said.
Shopkeepers, however, alleged that fire engines reached the spot late. “Fire broke out at only one shop but the fire department’s delay caused it to spread,” said local MD Imran.
Mukherjee, however, dismissed the allegation saying the congestion in the area made it difficult to reach the place. “We maintain a log book of phone calls and the departure of fire engines from the station. It can be checked to confirm if there had been a delay from our end. We are also investigating what kind of internal fire fighting system the market had. If need be, there will be a forensic test,” Mukherjee added.
Besides Mukerjee and other senior divisional officers, Mayor Sovan Chatterjee and local MLA Naina Bandopadhyay rushed to the spot.
“There will be a thorough inquiry to find out the cause of the fire,” Bandopadhyay said.
Many shop owners, meanwhile, said they kept legal documents pertaining to ownership in their shops, which got lost in the fire. “It will be difficult to prove ownership now and claim damages,” said Prafulla Sahu, one such shopkeeper.
Rajeev Singh, secretary, Joint Traders Federation (JTF), said members of 15 shopowners’ associations under them would meet tonight to decide on what kind of help they can extend. “About 100 shops in and around the market have been affected,” he said.
Today’s fire was the second major one in the New Market area in about a month. The shopping complex at the west end of the market, which was gutted in the fire on April 26, is still under