Blaze in Indian city claims lives

Many missing after fire engulfs colonial-era structure in business district of Kolkata.

    Stephen Court on Park Street houses offices, apartments, a restaurant and a clinic [AFP]

    Some of the injured had either jumped off or fell while trying to escape the flames.

    Eighteen charred bodies were found by Wednesday morning from the sixth floor, according to the Times of India daily. Another half a dozen bodies were found on Friday.

    As of Saturday, a dozen people were still untraced.

    Groups of people, including children, clung on window ledges or perched on airconditioning units as cooking-gas bottles exploded inside the complex, fuelling the flames which filled Park Street with acrid smoke.

    Dozens rescued

    Residents using bamboo ladders and ropes rescued around two dozen people from the building, which houses offices, upscale apartments, a popular restaurant and a clinic.

    Police were investigating the cause of the fire, which was believed to have started in an elevator, Shamim, the police official, said.

    Nearly 100 firefighters spent several hours to control the blaze.

    In February, nine people died in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, some as they jumped from windows, when flames engulfed a tall building in the software capital.

    Indian firefighters are badly equipped to fight major fires and often lack modern equipment, particularly long ladders capable of reaching trapped victims on high floors.

    The design of the woollen uniforms worn by Mumbai firefighters was changed this month for the first time in nearly 100 years.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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