The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Blaze kills four siblings
80 families homeless

Little Harjan Sheikh, barely seven, had screamed out loud ' 'Ma, save us. We are trapped here'. But fanned by the wind, the tongues of flame came in the way.

As the fire raged across some 150 hutments on Tuesday night on Canal South Road in Tangra ' in a near rerun of the Ultadanga fire the night before ' Harjan struggled inside the room with his 15-year-old sister Chandrali and his two brothers Rahamul, 3, and Osman, 2.

The door was closed, and even before they could find their way out, huge sheets of fire came down from the rooftop. The four children were killed while their mother Sufia Bibi struggled outside, with her two other children and her husband. The bodies were later lifted out of the dump and sent for post-mortem.

'I could hear Harjan cry for help. But there was little I could do. Their father, too, had suffered serious burns and my two children were crying. I just didn't know what to do,' Sufia said, looking weary outside the makeshift camp on Meher Ali Lane.

Almost 14 hours after the fire left her homeless ' along with some 80-odd families ' Sufia and her other daughter Razia had not found a place to share their grief together. Huddled with the families under a factory shed, neither wanted to talk about the tragedy. 'My father Noor Alam is in hospital. Leave us alone,' cried nine-year-old Rijia.

Fire-fighters claimed that the news about the four children trapped inside a room reached them late, via the police. 'By the time police had informed us, there was little that we could do to save their lives,' said Bibhas Guha, divisional fire officer.

Fire-fighters claimed the dark night impeded their rescue bid. 'The fire leapt across the 12-ft road and engulfed a factory shed and house-top,' said a fireman.

With plastic sheets lying scattered, along with mounds of paper and diesel, the fire spread and razed the godowns and the hutments in 15 minutes flat. It took 17 tenders over two hours to bring the fire under control. Two firemen, Milon Dutta and S.N. Roy, were injured.

Local people said the road had been encroached upon by recycled plastic dealers, aided and abetted by police, which helped the fire spread so fast.

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