Kolkata Fire Death Toll Rises to 19; Minister Says Building Unauthorized and Illegal
A representational image of an earlier fire in KolkataReuters

At least 19 people were killed when a major fire broke out in a multi-storey building in central Kolkata on Wednesday. Several others have sustained serious injuries.

The incident happened in the bustling Surya Sen market at around 3:50 am.

Over 20 fire-fighters were pressed into service and the flames were doused hours later. Around 15 people were rescued and the injured were rushed to state-run NRS and Medical College hospitals. Fire Services Minister Javed Khan said that about six of those rescued were unconscious when they were brought out of the blazing building.

Several shops and plastic and paper godowns were engulfed in the flames. Most of the people who died were shop owners. Locals in the area said that the toll would rise as many more were trapped inside the building.

"So far we have recovered 13 dead bodies. There might be some more people trapped inside...rescue operations are on," City Police Commissioner Surajit Kar Purakayastha told IANS.

Police are trying to find out the actual cause of the fire and will assess the total damage occurred. Primary investigation suggests that a short circuit in the building may have led to the tragedy.

Soon after reports of the incident broke out the fire services minister arrived at the spot to supervise the fire-fighting operations. Blaming the authorities for not having adequate safety measures, Javed Khan said, "We will take action against the market authorities for not having any fire safety arrangement," PTI reported.

He also said that the building was unauthorized and illegal explaining that it had come up during the rule of Left Front. The minister assured that police and fire authorities are continuing their search operations to look for those trapped inside.