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Fire razes wooden house, sawmill
A fireman trains his hosepipe at the blaze that gutted two wooden buildings, including a sawmill, on Raja Rammohun Roy Sarani on Thursday afternoon. Twenty fire-engines fought the blaze and brought it under control after nearly two hours. The blaze triggered panic in the area, but there were no injuries, police said. Picture by Pabitra Das

Two wooden buildings, including a sawmill, were gutted in a blaze on Raja Rammohun Roy Sarani on Thursday afternoon. Twenty fire-engines battled the blaze for nearly two hours, triggering panic among residents of the congested north Calcutta locality. But there were no injuries, the police clarified.

According to witnesses, the fire broke out in a two-storeyed wooden structure at 136, Raja Rammohun Roy Sarani, and spread to the adjacent sawmill.

Giant flames, accompanied by a towering smokescreen, rose above the busy street. The windows of a building in adjacent Siddheswar Chandra Lane also caught fire, but it was put out quickly.

“There were no fire-fighting mechanism in place inside the sawmill,” said fire services director B.M. Sen. According to him, the fire started at around 4 pm but the cause was yet to be ascertained. “The firemen had a tough time, as there was no water source nearby and our tanks were all we could draw upon,” added Sen.

A case will be filed against the owner of the sawmill, police said. “A forensic probe will be carried out on Friday,” said Zulfiquar Hasan, deputy commissioner of police (central).

The wooden house is owned by Dilip Mitra, and has a few tenants. “Our house is gutted and we don’t know where to go,” said Minati, Dilip’s wife. Sunil Adak, one of the tenants, said a child first detected the fire. “Suman, a student of Class IX, was studying when he suddenly felt the floor growing hot,” Adak said. He stepped out to discover a fire on the ground floor and raised the alarm. “On hearing his shouts, we all came out of the house,” Adak added.

Residents of the area later alleged that there were several brass factories in the building. “We heard at least two gas cylinder blasts in the sawmill, too,” claimed a witness. Sanat Chatterjee, who lives on the first floor of the sawmill, said he barely managed to escape along with his wife and two daughters. “It was a close shave for us,” said Chatterjee. The mill, nearly 150 years old, also housed a kerosene shop.

The fire triggered panic in the adjoining slum on Champatala First Bylane, where around 200 people stay. “We ran out of our homes, fearing the worst,” said Krishna Gayen, a resident.

“Luckily, the fire did not spread to the adjoining buildings,” said local MLA Tapas Roy. But that did not stop the residents — alleging “delay in the arrival of the firemen” — from heckling fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee when he visited the spot.

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