kolkata market fireThis post should have been on Wordless Wednesday, because I’m not sure what to say that I haven’t already said.  For the 8th time in 3 years, a major fire in Kolkata, India, has resulted in multiple fatalities.  At least 19 people were killed (one news report says 28) with 50 people injured, when an “illegal” market burned.  This market has been in existence for over 25 years, and the building is 5 stories tall, so I don’t know how the government can claim ignorance of the problems.

There was only one entrance/exit, and the stairway was blocked with stored goods.  The emergency exit had not been used for 10-15 years.  The other ground-floor exits were locked.  People were sleeping in shops and storage rooms packed with combustibles, in a building with no fire protection and no way out.  These families lost their breadwinners, the shopkeepers lost their livelihood.  The families of those killed in the fire will receive the equivalent of $3,700 in compensation.

kolkata market fire 2After the fire at the AMRI Hospital in Kolkata, in which 94 people were killed, committees were formed, inspections were ordered, and after that it looks like not a whole lot of progress was made.  We may not be seeing problems of this scale in the U.S., but it’s because of the hard work of code development organizations, code enforcement officials, and others who remain vigilant and place the value of human life above all else.

The next blocked exit or wedged fire door you see may seem like just a minor issue, but it’s a slippery slope once we stop caring about code compliance.  If you see something, say something!

Kolkata Market Fire: Have no lessons been learnt? – NDTV

20 die in Kolkata blaze – The Tribune India

A devastating blaze engulfed a five-storey market complex housing shops storing mainly plastics and paper in the Sealdah area of the city today, leaving 20 persons dead and 10 others injured. The fire was detected at 3.50 am in the 25-year-old Surya Sen Market complex housing a godown-cum-office complex when the victims, mostly labourers working in the market, were sleeping.

Since all five exit gates were closed from outside, the victims got trapped and could not come out in time. Also, the staircase of the market complex was blocked with goods making it difficult for the people to escape.

19 die in Kolkata market fire, Mamata cries sabotage – The Times of India

Most victims—labourers curled up in godowns on the first and second floors of Surya Sen Market packed with highly combustible paper and plastic goods—suffocated to death as shutters were pulled down and doors fastened from inside. Some tried to escape but failed as all five exits on the ground floor were locked.

The blaze, fire officers said, started on an illegal mezzanine floor that is connected to the rest of the building by just one stairwell, which was also lined with plastic goods. Most victims were inside godowns in this part and were caught in a deathtrap as flames engulfed the stairwell, too. Within minutes, the fire spread across the ground floor and to another part of the building that also houses godowns as well as some offices. Local residents claimed at least five bodies were found in this part. They also said outsiders slept inside the market at night. The market did not have a fire license.

Kolkata yet to address fire safety – The Deccan Herald

Fire at the dead of the night, only one exit in the building, people trapped inside are asphyxiated and wait for the fire to engulf them… The picture sounds suspiciously similar to the AMRI hospital fire 15 months ago that claimed 94 lives.

“They are used to sleeping inside the shops and godowns. With the fire spreading, they were trapped inside and were choked to death,” the local said.

“There is a back entrance which always remained shut. We tried opening it. Had it been open it would have saved a lot of lives,” the local mentioned.

Kolkata again: Plastic market fire kills 20 – The Indian Express

According to police, the Fire Brigade and area residents, the fire started at 3.20 am, probably after a refrigerator burst into flames following an electrical short-circuit. It fed on inflammable material, chemicals and over 50 cooking gas cylinders as it raced through the mezanine and first floors of the building, and burnt for about 10 hours.

A little over a year ago, in December 2011, over 90 people — mostly hospital patients — had suffocated following the AMRI fire in Dhakuria in south Kolkata. Earlier, in March 2010, 43 people died after a fire broke out in Stephen Court building on Park Street.

Mamata admits to lapses in fire safety effort – Hindu Business Line

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday admitted that not many steps have been taken to ensure fire safety after the blaze at AMRI Hospitals that killed nearly 90 people in December 2011.

She was speaking soon after a major fire broke out in a multi-storey market complex in central Kolkata on Wednesday morning, killing 20 people.

According to Banerjee, many places (including unauthorised buildings) in the city have become a “tinderbox” and no action has been taken to ensure fire safety.

“We had instructed hospitals and multi-storeyed buildings to ensure fire safety. But, the fire safety arrangements have not been put in place,” she said after visiting the market complex on Surya Sen Street here.

Photos:  FirstPost India, Economic Times India

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