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Flames lick at heritage shop stop and homes
Blaze in paint factory

A blaze in a Berger Paints factory in Shalimar, Howrah, on Sunday morning smashed windowpanes in an adjacent housing complex, waking up residents who fled their homes in panic.

The N and O blocks of the 250-flat Rabindra Nagar Complex on Swarnamoyee Road is only 8ft away from the boundary wall at the back of the 88-year-old factory. The fire started in a three-storey building housing a canteen, a lab and an administrative office in the 25-bigha compound.

As 12 fire tenders struggled to contain the fire, the flames leapt threateningly close to the adjacent flats, the windowpanes of which broke because of the heat.

Seema Singh, 23, asleep with her one-year-old son Suri in a first-floor flat in the O block, was woken up by the sound of glass cracking.

“The bedroom had suddenly become very hot. I turned to my son and saw blood on his face: a shard of glass from the windowpane had hit him,” she said.

“I peeped out of the window to see what was happening and saw the flames were only a few feet away from our flat. I picked up my son and ran out of the room screaming,” she added.

Firemen said the factory had an underground reservoir but the hydrants were dysfunctional. They demolished a wall to use water from a nearby pond.

Senior officers of the fire department said the residential complex should not have been allowed to come up so close to the factory.

Mamata Jaiswal, the mayor of the Howrah Municipal Corporation, said the residential complex had been given the green light much before 2004, when it was actually constructed.

“The permission could not have been given before 1923 when the factory came up,” pointed out a senior fire department officer.

According to him, permission to build such a residential complex is granted after assessing how fire-prone the commercial unit is.

“Rabindra Nagar Complex should have been at least 500m away from the paint factory, where thousands of litres of inflammable chemicals are stocked,” he said.

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