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Stored oil fuels fire, 16 shops gutted

Siliguri, Nov. 21: Sixteen shops outside New Jalpaiguri station were completely gutted in a fire this morning. The oil stored in the stalls illegally is suspected to have fuelled the flames that spread rapidly in the area.

According to the residents of the area, the fire broke out around 5.30am and soon started spreading.

Local people informed the Siliguri fire station, 2km away, and three fire tenders reached the spot to douse the flames.

“We received a call around 5.55am and our employees rushed to the spot. We used three fire engines to douse the flames and controlled the fire by 8am,” Udaynarayan Adhikary, the deputy director of fire services (north Bengal), said.

According to him, the flames spread rapidly as the shops, all in a row, were made of wood, tin and bamboos and oil was stored in almost all the stalls.

“Preliminary observation suggests that the fire had started from a flame. It seems that later, the blaze spread because of the illegal storage of fuels,” he said.

While most of the shops that were damaged used to sell fruits and garments, some were eateries and garages.

The Trinamul Congress councillor of ward-35 of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, Jaidip Nandi, said: “We have found that the fire was accidental and it was caused by some open flame. Illegal storage of fuels in the shanties surrounding the station area is a major problem. I will write to the administration and the fire department to investigate the cause of the blaze and to take appropriate steps to stop the illegal practice of storing and selling fuels here.”

New Jalpaiguri station area, which is under ward-35, is known for oil rackets.

Some stalls near the station sell pilfered fuel at low prices to commercial vehicles.

Today, the affected shopkeepers sought compensation from the state government and the SMC.

“I am the sole earner in my family and I used to run a fruit shop here. Today’s fire has completely gutted my shop and I have no clue how to earn a living now. We would ask the state government and the SMC to extend some financial assistance to us so that we can repair our shops,” Amar Saha, a stall owners, said.

Nandi said he would take up the issue of compensation with SMC mayor Gangotri Datta.

The councillor added that the officials were yet to ascertain the extent of damage.

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