Bagree Market fire could not be brought fully under control even after 40 hours since it broke out. Fire department officials said that they will take another three days to completely extinguish the fire.
In the absence of CM Mamata Banerjee, her senior cabinet minister Partha Chatterjee chaired a high level meeting at Nabanna, the state secretariat to discuss the cause of Bagree Market fire and why it was taking so long to arrest the fire. Mamata, who is in Germany, talking to mediapersons said, “I am for businesspersons but one must understand that you cannot block passages in a way that cars and fire fighting vehicles are unable to move. This is not business. It is hooliganism.”
Sources at Nabanna said that primary investigation revealed that one of the three owners of the market, Radha Bagree, had let out 150 shops illegally at the fourth and fifth floors of the building. All the fire fighting equipment were either passed their expiry date or were lying defunct. “It has been decided that the owners of the market would be questioned and CCTV footages of the area will be scanned,” the source said. It has also been found out that the staircases and even the washrooms had been let out as storerooms, to shopowners. It has also been decided in the meeting the role of KMC and the fire department will also be looked into, to find out if there was any negligence on their part.
Additional Commissioner of Police-II Javed Shamim visited the place in the afternoon on Monday. “There has been no new places of fire. The containing and cooling process is on. Only the E Block remains now the rest had been cooled off. A team of forensic officers has visited the spot and will submit their report soon,” he said.
State urban development minister Firhad Hakim also visited Bagree Market on Monday and faced an irate crowd of businesspersons and area locals. He said, “No one responsible for the mishap will be spared.”
Shop owners blamed a slow and unplanned fire fighting plan for the spread of flames. “They are not fire fighters. They are fire preventers. They are only spraying water at the flames from a distance to prevent it from spreading. They are unable to enter the building to reach the spot,” said Mohit Banthia, a shop owner.
Ashutosh Singh, president of Bagree Market Central Kolkata Traders Welfare Association said that owners of the building had charged money but never got proper fire fighting arrangements in place. “We have had our AGM on Saturday and the fire broke out just the day after. The owners have also lost a court case regarding the market. Is it a mere coincidence?” he told DNA.