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Petroleum barrels burst, gut factory

A chain of explosions in barrels of petroleum products caused a big fire on Wednesday afternoon in a rubber solution factory in densely-populated Topsia First Lane, on the eastern fringe of the city.

The blasts blew off the asbestos roof and a portion of the boundary wall of the unit, Golden Chemicals. Two contiguous buildings were partially damaged. No one was injured.

The owner of the factory, Zuber Alam, was arrested by Tiljala police soon after the fire broke out. The owner of the building, Sk Mazar Ali, who had let out the premises to the rubber solution-manufacturing unit, was badly hit. The fire destroyed leather wallets worth Rs 2.5 lakh that he had scheduled for export to Europe on Friday.

Firemen doused the petroleum flames after four hours. They pressed 14 fire engines into operation. “There were more than a dozen barrels filled with petroleum and other highly inflammable rubber solutions. Because of explosions, we could not go very close to the fire,” said divisional fire officer ( headquarters), Debapriya Biswas.

Though the firemen had arrived by 3-15 pm, they could not gain access to the blaze for about 30 minutes because local people had formed a wall around the building.

Young men of the area supplied water in buckets, but the fire-fighting operation was impeded by lack of water. This is a perennial impediment firemen face all over the city. Local people complained that despite repeated appeals, the police and the fire brigade did not take action to close down the hazardous industrial unit.

Local councillor and member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan, demanded a fire station be set up close to Science City and Parama island, on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. “How is the fire licence of the unit renewed every year' This is the second fire at the unit. The last was in the mid-1990s,” he said. Khan added that in 1971, the state government had notified the Topsia-Tiljala-Tangra area as an industrial zone.

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