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Now, SEZ goes up in flames

Falta (South 24-Parganas), April 9: The curse, it seems, is upon SEZs.

If people’s anger throttled one a few weeks ago, nature today conspired to destroy another, as an early morning fire, fanned by strong winds, gutted several plastic units in a special economic zone in Falta.

The blaze fed on combustible raw materials as 26 fire engines, hamstrung by lack of water, struggled to douse the flames.

The fire was brought under control late in the afternoon, though some pockets in the zone, about 80 km from Calcutta, still smouldered. The export-processing zone manufactures plastic granules, shoes and paper products.

The inferno is the second setback in a month for SEZs in Bengal after Nandigram residents forced the government to shelve plans for one in the East Midnapore block.

Security guards first detected the fire at Plastolen Polymer around 2 when a storm was blowing. As the swaying high-tension wires came in contact, sparks fell on the raw materials. The fire soon spread to adjoining units, gutting five and partially damaging two.

However, a chemical hub in the zone, which has 64 factories, escaped the blaze.

Fire officials said they were hampered by poor supply of water. “We had to bring water from outside. This sector has only one deep tube well and the reservoir in the zone didn’t have enough water,” said divisional officer Achintya Mukherjee.

Local CPM legislator Chandana Ghosh Dastidar, who put the damage at Rs 15 crore, said it was surprising that such a huge sector had only two fire engines.

S.K. Sonthalia, the chairman of the Sonthalia Group which owns the five destroyed plastic units, said: “As far as I know, the fire occurred due to natural calamity.”

Fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee said a probe will be conducted. Forensic experts will visit the site tomorrow.

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