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Blaze site keeps firemen at bay

The undying flames at the Ludhiana Hosiery Building kept fire-fighters busy throughout Sunday, even as the landlord, D.K. Agarwal, of the premises at 171A, Mahatma Gandhi Road, remained untraceable.

Billowing smoke and smoulders kept firemen at bay throughout the day. Eight fire-tenders were pressed into service to keep fresh flash fires under control.

Fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee on Sunday announced that a five-member committee, comprising police, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and the fire brigade, will be formed on Monday to oversee the probe into the blaze. “The committee will look into every aspect before submitting its report in a few days' time,” Chatterjee added.

Firemen, who have to submit a detailed report on the cause of the blaze to the chief minister on Monday, made several unsuccessful attempts to enter the building throughout the day. “The roof has caved in on the second and third floors of the building, where it is impossible to penetrate,” said fire services director B.M. Sen, who monitored the operation.

Late in the afternoon, fire fighters did manage to enter a portion of the second floor of the building after clearing debris and scanned the area for possible clues. Investigations revealed that a huge tarpaulin sheet laid on the floor and the top of the two floors of the building for a religious ceremony on Saturday had first caught fire. A large number of LPG cylinders made matters worse. “We could not reach the rear portion of the second floor. It is completely gutted. If the traders still harbour any hopes of salvaging some of their goods, they better forget it,” said a weary fire-fighter.

Forensic experts are expected to reach the blaze site on Monday to collect samples to ascertain the real cause of the fire. “They made several abortive attempts in the past two days. I hope they are successful tomorrow,” said Chatterjee.

Burrabazar police continued to interrogate D.K. Agarwal’s younger brother, N.K. Agarwal, who was picked up by the police on Saturday afternoon. “He is claiming that the owner is recuperating in a nursing home. We haven’t been able to find him yet,” said the duty officer at the police station.

On Sunday, a large police contingent, along with deputy commissioner of police (central) Zulfiquar Hassan, was “working on various leads and hope to get to the bottom of the case shortly.”

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