Shanties in Calcutta go up in smoke

CALCUTTA: More than 200 shanties were gutted in a fire that blazed through the Park Circus slum bordering the railway tracks late on Saturday night. Fire-fighters battled the flames for eight gruelling hours.

Though no one was injured, the fire took away whatever belongings the slum dwellers had. Three firefighters were left injured after they breathed in smoke and had to be administered first-aid at the spot. In all, 28 fire engines from Behala, Central Avenue, Headquarters and even Howrah had to be rushed in to control the rapidly extending fire.

Fire station officials were informed about the fire around 11.50pm on Saturday. “We initially rushed in five fire tenders and went on to increase their number as required. We could finally control the fire around 7am on Sunday,” said an official.

Several political leaders, including local MLA Swarnakamal Saha, visited the spot. “We are worried about the families who have lost everything in the fire. We will try our best to rehabilitate them,” said Saha. The cops have begun a probe into the incident. “Prima facie, it seems that a short circuit triggered the fire,” said an officer.

“We have lost everything in this fire. We do not know where will we spend the night. I do not even have any cloth for my six-month-old daughter,” said Ayesha Bibi, a victim.

Several social workers and activists came  to help  the victims. “Around 2.30am, we got a call from a person in the slum. She was hysterical and said she had lost everything and so did many others. We rushed to the slum, and tried to enter by Tiljala Road. We found it blocked all the way till Chittaranjan hospital. At that point, there were nine fire engines,” said Hemley Gonzalez of NGO Responsible Charity.

“We reached the site around 3am. The fire was put out by then, but several firefighters were searching for flames and fire engines were still pumping water. It was scalding hot, there was molten iron, burning rubber… the smell was choking. We were able to locate three families we work with and found them unhurt, and there were no casualties according to them. The children were sent away so that they didn’t add to the chaos,” added Gonzalez.

The group immediately posted the photos and information on social media and started a donation drive for the victims. “In 16 hours, we raised $1100. We appeal to Kolkatans to donate usable clothes, shoes, blankets and sheets, non-perishable food items, cooking utensils or funds to help the slum dwellers who have lost all they had in the inferno,” a volunteer said. Citizens can drop off the items at the NGO office at 22 Saktigarh Road, Jadavpur.

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Posted by on April 7, 2014. Filed under Bengal,Breaking News,INDIA -WIDE. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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