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Fire at nursing home, finger at building owner

Tamluk, Aug. 10: A Tamluk businessman allegedly sneaked into the empty operation theatre of a nursing home, sprinkled an inflammable substance and set the room on fire, the early morning arson apparently the fallout of a feud over the building in which the facility is housed.

Police said timber merchant Muktiprasad Bera, 56, had leased out the two-storeyed building in Tamluk town to nursing home owner Sami Samanta Pramanik in 2005. Bera’s brother Debaprasad claimed Pramanik had refused to vacate the property even though the lease agreement expired in December last year.

Pramanik lodged a police complaint accusing Muktiprasad of setting the first-floor OT on fire. The accused is absconding.

Laboratory assistant Arunava Adgiri, who was sleeping in a room adjoining the OT, said he was jolted out of sleep around 5.45am by the “acrid smell of spirit and something burning”.

“I rushed out of the room and saw flames coming out of the OT. I saw a man trapped inside. He was trying to come out. I caught the man’s outstretched hand and pulled him out. I recognised the man, he was Muktiprasad Bera. The moment I pulled him out, he pushed me aside and ran away,” Adgiri, 27, said.

Around 10 patients woke up hearing the commotion.

“I had just woken up and was going to the washroom when I saw a middle-aged man sprinkling some liquid from a bottle on the passage outside the OT. I thought he was a sweeper cleaning the floor,” said Tapati Mondal, 40, a Panskura resident who underwent a tumour operation at the nursing home a few days ago.

“Moments later I heard shouts of ‘fire, fire’. I rushed out of the toilet and saw Arunava and some other employees shouting. Flames and smoke was coming out of the OT. I rushed down despite stitches in my abdomen,” she said.

Another patient, Gitarani Manna, 55, said she was alerted by her sister-in-law Pushparani Mondal.

“She had stayed the night with me. Early in the morning, she was having tea at a stall nearby when she saw flames coming out of the OT window. She rushed upstairs and alerted me. The OT was just opposite my ward. I got scared and lost consciousness,” Manna said.

Nursing home employees put out the blaze within 20 minutes, before the fire brigade arrived. Some instruments, medicines, AC machines and furniture inside the OT got destroyed.

After Pramanik lodged the FIR, the police raided Muktiprasad’s home, godown and furniture shop but could not find him there.

“My elder brother leased out the property to Pramanik in 2005. The lease agreement ended in December 2011. My brother wanted her to vacate the building but she was insisting on renewing the lease agreement. The nursing home owner is falsely accusing my brother,” Debaprasad said.

Arun Khan, the officer in charge of Tamluk police station, said: “We are looking for Muktiprasad. We have sealed the OT for forensic examination.”