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Fire in Kolkata cold storage triggers panic

Staff Reporter

Flames doused after a six-hour operation by 25 fire tenders; no one suffered major injuries

—PHOTO: REUTERS

People attempt to extinguish a fire at a cold storage unit in Kolkata on Monday. The fire broke out after an ammonia gas leak and then spread to an adjacent cotton godown.

KOLKATA: On the heels of a gas leak, a major fire broke out in a building that served as a cold storage at Maniktala here on Monday. The flames were doused after a six-hour operation by 25 fire tenders.

One person jumped from the upper floor of the three-storey building. However, no one suffered major injuries.

The fire caused panic among residents of the area as the gas leak occurred in another unit on the premises just a day ago and rumours spread that yet another gas leak was reported.

“There had been a gas leak in the ammonia chamber that is also on the same premises and three fire engines were rushed there. But it was brought under control,” said Fire and Emergency Services Director Gopal Bhattacharya.

Residents of the area claimed that the building had been abandoned, but repairs to the structure started more than a month ago. Four labourers were working inside when the fire broke out and one of them panicked and jumped from the roof. The building developed large cracks on the walls as the fire raged.

With very few outlets in its structure, smoke burst through the cracks.

Controlling the fire was a daunting task, thanks to the storage of inflammable material kept for insulating the building. At one point there was shortage of water, said Deputy Director of Fire and Emergency Services department Dipak Sarkar.

The building is difficult to access through narrow, snaking alleys and clusters of houses abounding. There were fears that the fire might spread to adjacent buildings. “There has been some difficulty in finding the owners of the building as ownership seems to have changed recently,” said Jawed Shamim, Joint Commissioner (headquarters) of the City police.

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