A few hours after an inferno destroyed 21 shops and left two injured in Sector 53 furniture market,bits of charred wood,broken glass and mangled tin sheets lay scattered everywhere where once existed a popular market. As per available information,goods worth nearly Rs 5 crore were gutted in the fire.
It had taken over 20 fire tenders from Chandigarh,Panchkula,Mohali,12 Wing and 3 BRD and over 100 firemen and volunteers to contain the flames which started about 11 pm on Monday.
On Tuesday,the forlorn faces of the shopkeepers and their customers could be seen with a resigned look in their eyes. As the smoke and dust settled,the shopkeepers swept away the rubble and despaired at their losses. The blaze had claimed it all. The inferno had left little more than ash and molten slag in its wake. Material and goods worth crores had gone up in smoke,leaving behind nothing but despair.
Amidst the bustle of activity,one could see some of the owners try to assess the extent of the damage caused by the fire. Some others were trying to frantically salvage what little was left of their shops. In one corner,a group of people sat and speculated about the cause of the fire that had ruined their lives. One could overhear them discussing their losses in hushed whispers,but with a distinct hard edge in their voices.
When asked what message they would want to get across to the administration,the shop owners had nothing to say.
Lakhminder Singh,one of the shop owners who lost his shop to the blaze,said,Since the year 1990,when I first started my business,the furniture market has seen four such cases where a fire caused by an electrical shortage had destroyed goods worth crores of rupees. Each time,a report was made and sent to the government along with a plea for allotment of plots to continue our business. The last time the fire broke out in the same area,Governor Rodrigues assured the victims that plots would be allotted to them in 10 days time. Years later,we are yet to see those plots.
The plight of the shop owners was matched only by that of their customers. People had invested heavily in works under construction and had lost much time,effort and resources.
Chief Fire Officer M L Sharma said,We suspect that a short circuit,probably due to a kundi connection,started the fire. However the exact cause was yet to be identified.
He added that the fire worsened due to the chemicals stored inside the shops. Most shops had petroleum products like thinner and other paints and polishes. The tins containing the chemicals burst with high impact due to the high temperature which made it difficult to control the fire.