Calcutta Market Fire Damages Estimated to be $51 Million

January 14, 2008

A huge fire that has gutted much of a central market in Calcutta, India raged for a second day destroying the livelihoods of some 7,000 people and sparking fears it could bring down a 13-story building, officials said.

The fire engulfed more than 2,500 makeshift stalls and shops in the famous Burrabazar marketplace — the largest wholesale market in eastern India — said B. D. Mimani, the head of the market traders’ association.

On Sunday, soldiers and firefighters were still trying to extinguish the blaze, which continued to burn on the top floors of a 13-story building that was part of the market, Fire Brigade Director Gopal Bhattacharjee said.

Bhattacharjee said some 160 firefighters, 44 firetrucks and an unspecified number of soldiers were battling the flames.

Several firefighters were slightly injured, he said, adding that there were no other casualties in the blaze.

“The fire continued for such a long time because the market complex was stashed with flammable materials like tarpaulins, plastics, synthetic cloths and wool,” Bhattacharjee said, adding that fire services had problems accessing water in the area.

West Bengal state Fire Services Minister Pratim Chatterjee told the Press Trust of India there were concerns that diesel fuel for the building’s generator on the roof could explode, bringing down the building.

“With so much heat generated after the fire, the building may collapse. If it doesn’t, we will pull it down later,” he said.

Mimani estimated the damage at $51 million.

“The fire has made the livelihood of at least 7,000 people and their families uncertain,” said Mimani, adding that most shop owners were not insured.

“Everything I had was in those shops. They were my future, the future of my family. What will I do now?” said Ganesh Bhagat, who lost his three tarpaulin stores.

Officials said it was not yet clear what started the blaze.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.